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The Health Benefits of Good Oral Hygiene

Most of us at least put in an effort to take care of our
bodies, although some more than others. Some of us spend a few
hours a week at the gym or count calories or watch our
carbohydrate intake. Without doing any of those things, you are
basically playing the lottery with your body. I bet you
wouldn’t have guessed that maintaining good oral hygiene would
effect your overall health. Well, I have some news for you! Not
only do we need to watch what goes down the hatch, but we have
to “clean the food processor” on a regular basis, too. Last
year, at a rather young age, I was about to finish up my work
day when I started to feel a little off. Since I work in a
hospital, I went to a nurse whom I trust and asked her to check
my vital signs for anything out of the ordinary. She started
with my pulse.

My heart was beating like a base drum! Just as she put her
fingers to my wrist, I began to brake out in a cold sweat and
my chest felt like an elephant was sitting on top of it. A mild
creeping pain began in my left arm and I began to get nauseous.
I checked in to the ER and the doctor came in to examine me. He
stated that all the indicators pointed to angina, but he didn’t
really think anything would be going on in that department. But
just to make sure, he’d put me “through the ringer”. He wasn’t
kidding.

After a chest x-ray, lab draws, EKG, nitro, aspirin, and an
uncomfortable nasal cannula the doctor came back in. He simply
stated that, although he didn’t think so at first, it looked as
if I had suffered an anterior infarction. You guessed it, a
mild heart attack in the front section of my heart. I was
absolutely stunned. After seeing a few cardiologist who
declared that my arteries were pristine and my cholesterol was
great, I went to see my family doctor. He clued me in to some
things that I wouldn’t have thought of before.

My family doctor told me that after looking through all the
tests and what-not, he thought my anterior infarction was
possibly due to vassal spasms. After explaining that there
isn’t much that can be done for vassal spasms, other than the
occasional squirt of nitro spray, there were some things that I
could start doing to improve my overall health. One of the
biggest things he suggested is to maintain good oral hygiene
and improve my body mass index. Brushing your teeth will help
prevent heart attacks? Yeah right. I knew I had some dental
issues to deal with, and I planned to get around to them when I
could. But I didn’t realize that by modifying my eating
behavior to deal with sore teeth and gums could negatively
effect my health.

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I began to notice that I had started to eat softer foods, some
of which tend to be bland in the first place. Mashed potatoes
would get loaded up with salt and butter, my oatmeal would get
plenty of sugar and butter, drinking lots of warm coffee
instead of cold water; you get the picture. I’ve never been a
huge fan of vegetables to begin with, but those that I did eat
when my teeth were in good condition were usually raw and
packed with all that natural goodness. I noticed that with poor
oral health, the vegetables that I begrudgingly ate were often
boiled or cooked down to nothingness.

I had gingivitis, a few cavities, plaque, and poor
oral hygiene
habits. Needless to say, I needed to push the
reset button fast! I started by booking and keeping a dentist
appointment. After a little oral work, I began eating much
better. Eating good and healthy foods turned on a switch for
me. I started working out more, eating more meals per day with
smaller portions, and generally getting into better shape. I
didn’t have to rearrange my entire lifestyle, just a few simple
modifications here and there. But this all began with
developing better oral hygiene habits.

Jamie Oliver is a dental assistant in Seattle, WA.  She
loves to share her passion of dental care with others through
articles and blogging.

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