I tend to mash down on my teeth when I strain during heavy deadlifts. The discomfort from this movement is temporary, and by the time I finish stretching after the WOD, the pain is gone. But what if you have recurring and persistent pain from seemingly innocuous exercises like running? That may be a sign of potentially serious dental issues, and really whole body issues, that you need to address.
When we exercise, blood flow is increased, as is our rate of breathing. If you have been neglecting your oral hygiene, this extra movement can cause discomfort and even bleeding in your gums. While you can probably tolerate this discomfort, you shouldn’t.
Your oral health has been called a window to your overall health. Links have been found to periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease due to infection, and inflammation and infection in other areas of the body, such as the heart, bones, and brain. It has even been shown to be related to low birth weight, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here’s why. Our mouths naturally contain certain bacteria. When we are healthy and employ proper oral hygiene methods like regular brushing and flossing along with regular dentist visits, we maintain a healthy mouth and keep the bacteria in check. But if we have a lapse in our dental care, these bacteria can start to take over as plaque builds up on our teeth and in our gums, providing a breeding ground for more bacteria. Further, certain medications like decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics, and antidepressants can suppress formation of saliva. This lessening in the production of saliva can contribute to gum disease because saliva naturally helps wash away food and neutralize harmful bacteria.
Once the bacteria takes root in your mouth, it spreads to other areas of the body via the mouth and bloodstream. It can cause in infection in the inner lining of the heart, called endocardium. The inflammation caused by the bacteria spreading and your body’s attempts at fighting it can lead to cardiovascular disease, clogged arteries, and even stroke. The list of issues that can result from lack of attention to your teeth goes on and on.
Studies have shown that treating the source of the bacteria can help reverse the symptoms related to the spread of the infection. This means getting back in the dentist’s chair after a lengthy absence, and it may mean several extra visits to address the problem, but the long-term health benefits are worth it.
There may be other benefits to seeing your dentist too. My dentist performs an oral cancer and lymph node check, which can help detect certain cancers early.
The best way to keep your mouth healthy is through prevention and regular attention. Eat a healthy diet composed of real, unprocessed foods. Avoid sugars and sodas. Drink plenty of water. Use an electric toothbrush to brush at least twice daily and floss and use mouthwash at least once a day. See your dentist for regular cleanings at least every 6 months.
Pay attention to your teeth and gums. If something simple like running causes mouth pain, there is something wrong, and this may be an early warning to a much more serious issue. Take care of your mouth for an overall healthier body.