Poor oral health has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

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Oral health is critical to overall health. Here are six surprising ways to protect your oral health, save money – and stay healthy.

Surprise No. 1 – You’re more fit if your mouth is fit. Oral health affects overall health and fitness. Poor oral health has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Get regular oral health checkups to detect problems that might quickly get worse and be expensive to treat. Preventing and taking care of problems early is especially important for older adults since Medicare doesn’t cover dental care.

Surprise No. 2 – Healthy gums keep you looking younger longer.  Cleaning between your teeth daily with floss (or some other type of interdental cleaner like tiny brushes or a Waterpik) cleans the 40 percent of your tooth surfaces that brushing doesn’t reach. It’s hard to look your best if you have spinach between your teeth. Cleaning between your teeth helps you look younger longer by preventing gum disease which leads to receding gums, a telltale sign of aging.

Surprise No. 3 – Gum disease is an infection that can lead to other problems. Gum disease also leads to tooth and bone loss, affecting your appearance and making it difficult to eat the types of food you love, and those that keep you energized and strong. Inflammation in your mouth causes extreme bad breath, affecting your confidence and relationships. Talk to your health care team about how to keep your mouth healthy. If you have diabetes you are more likely to develop gum disease, and gum disease makes it harder to control blood sugar. That’s why it is especially important for people with diabetes to get regular dental checkups.

Surprise No. 4 – Cavities are caused by infectious germs. Sweet or high-carb foods and drinks feed the germs that cause decay. After eating, these germs make acid. The acid attacks teeth for 20 minutes or more, literally eating away tooth enamel. The result: cavities.  It’s the frequency of snacking (or sipping) — not just the type of snack — that leads to tooth decay. When you have a snack, it’s better to eat it all at once rather than nibbling throughout the day.

Surprise No. 5 – Cavities and gum disease are preventable. Cavities and gum disease are not inevitable.  Brushing, cleaning between teeth, healthy snacking and regular oral health checkups lead to good oral health.  The use of fluoride helps, too. Fluoride is particularly important as we age because receding gums expose more of the tooth, and so root cavities can become a problem. Root cavities can be painful and expensive. Fluoride toothpaste, fluoride varnish and fluoridated water are proven tools to help prevent cavities because they strengthen teeth.

Surprise No. 6 – Good oral health saves you money and makes life better. The good news is you can keep your teeth as long as you live (and eat all the foods you love), if you take care of your mouth.  If you’re planning for retirement, good oral health has to be part of your planning, especially since regular Medicare does not include dental.

Unleash the power of good oral health. Your appearance and health will benefit, and so will your pocketbook.

If you like your teeth, learn how to protect them for life by visiting TheMightyMouth

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