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4 Ways Your Dentist Can Boost Your Overall Well Being

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If you think of your dentist merely as a solver of dental emergencies, you're missing out on the many greater benefits to your long-term well being this practitioner can provide. Here are four important ways you can benefit from regular dental care.

1. Better Digestion

If you've ever tried to eat with a toothache, you know how difficult it can be to chew the food properly. Chewing is the critical first stage of the digestive process -- the teeth reduce the food to digestible chunks while enzymes in saliva begin reducing the food for easier breakdown of nutrients in the stomach and intestines. If you can't chew your food properly, you can't digest it properly. This may lead to chronic bouts of stomach discomfort, gastric reflux, and bowel irregularities. It can also cause malabsorption of the nutrients necessary for maintaining normal health.

Any kind of toothache or other oral pain merits a trip to the dentist, whether you need a simple, filling, a root canal, antibiotics, or even an extraction. The sooner your pain is gone, the sooner you'll be able to eat correctly for optimal health.

2. A Healthier Heart (and Other Organs)

Many people don't realize how extensive the effects of tooth decay and gum disease can be. The bacteria that feed on tartar also feed on the tissues of your teeth, gums, and jawbone. Unchecked periodontal disease allows these bacteria to create dangerous abscesses -- but they can also penetrate deeper into your body by hitching a ride on the circulatory system. Once the bacteria have entered your bloodstream, they can enter your heart and cause inflammation of its lining, a condition known as endocarditis. Bacterial infiltration of the heart can also damage the heart valves. Other organs are at risk as well.

A combination of home dental hygiene and periodic professional cleanings can help prevent the buildup of tartar that usually gets this bacterial train wreck rolling, sparing you from systemic infections and potential organ damage. If you already have a toothache or gum disease, your dentist can perform treatment to save and sterilize the tooth or reduce the size of the "pockets" in your gums.

3. Early Cancer Detection

Dental examinations aren't just a formality -- they can actually save you from the ravages of oral cancer. This form of cancer is particularly fast growing, but it doesn't necessarily show symptoms until it is highly advanced. If you smoke or drink, your odds for oral cancer are heightened; if you smoke and drink, they're especially high. Your dentist will check your oral cavity for cancer during the course of a routine examination. If any signs of the disease are found, immediate treatment can prove a life-saving measure. 

4. Emotional and Financial Security

Positive human connections have been shown to reduce the body's levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can damage your health. But when your teeth don't look good, you may resist smiling or eating in public, and you might even avoid direct conversations. As a result, you end up living a more solitary lifestyle than you would prefer, causing unnecessary feelings of depression and stress. Some much-needed dental treatment can give you the healthy self-esteem you need to interact with people and form life-long personal or romantic relationships. 

Even your financial well being could depend on the health of your teeth. Potential employers cannot help but be influenced by your looks, your projected self-confidence, and your willingness to smile (which indicates an agreeable personality and positive attitude.) One study revealed that welfare recipients with bad teeth doubled their chances to find employment after receiving necessary dental work. Even if your teeth are healthy, cosmetic procedures to straighten or whiten them could make a tremendous difference in the impression you make on influential people.

Once you've improved your financial fortunes by taking care of your teeth, you'll find it even easier to maintain physical wellness. By being able to afford fresh foods instead of cheap, fat-filled "convenience foods," for example, you can enjoy better nutrition and more easily monitor your intake of sodium, saturated fat, and other potentially harmful ingredients. In other words, healthier teeth can mean a healthier bank account, and a healthier bank account can mean a healthier you!

As you can see, your dentist can play an invaluable role in helping you enjoy highest possible quality of life, from heart health to better job prospects. So don't put off that next appointment or fixing that toothache -- because wellness starts in the mouth!