One of the best things that you can do to protect your teeth and gums isn’t what you think. Of course brushing and flossing, having good dental insurance, and practicing good oral hygiene are important, but establishing a regular yoga practice could also have a big impact on your oral health. Yoga’s benefits go far beyond just looking better and increasing flexibility. Yoga can play a big role in fighting gum disease and keeping teeth healthy.
1.Yoga lowers stress
Stress is something that people struggle with every day, but it doesn’t just impact emotional health. Numerous studies have been done linking stress to physical ailments and conditions. The more stress you have the more you will experience things like tight muscles, neck pain, and headaches. Stress can also cause dental and jaw problems clenched jaw and bruxism, or teeth grinding.
According to the Academy of Dentistry as many as one in three people have bruxism, although they may not even know it.1 Often jaw clenching and teeth grinding are unconscious movements so people don’t realize that they are grinding their teeth or that their jaw is clenched tight for long period of time. Bruxism often is worse at night while people sleep. When the body is holding onto a lot of stress or a person’s mind is racing, they may start grinding their teeth.
Over time bruxism can cause serious dental problems like:
- Flat teeth
- Chipped teeth
- Broken teeth
- Cheek damage
- Jaw misalignment
- Jaw pain
- Neck pain
- Tooth sensitivity
- Worn tooth enamel
There are yoga practices specifically designed to help the body recover from stress. A regular yoga practice designed to incorporate stress relieving poses and medication can significantly reduce stress and help eliminate bruxism and clenched jaw problems.2 Taking just 20 minutes a day to do some stretching and relaxing yoga problems could give you better oral health and better health in general.
2. Yoga lowers inflammation
Inflammation is responsible for a wide range of health problems, including inflammation of the gums which can cause pain and oral problems like gum disease and tooth decay. Inflammation can be localized or widespread throughout the body, but it can trigger problems anywhere in the body. Inflammation in the gums can be caused by generalized stress. That’s because your body releases a specific hormone, cortisol, to help mitigate stress.
When your body goes into “fight or flight” mode your endocrine system pumps out cortisol and floods your body with it. Cortisol’s job is to act as an anti-inflammatory. It’s supposed to help you stay calm and not freeze in the face of danger. But when you have too much cortisol, it works the opposite way and makes people anxious and causes inflammation.
Continued exposure to stress can cause chronic inflammation because your body is constantly being flooded with cortisol. This can lead to chronic gum inflammation and gingivitis among other problems. Restorative yoga poses that calm the endocrine system and help your body deal with excess cortisol can also help reduce inflammation in the gums that can cause oral health problems.
4. Yoga promotes better posture
Posture has a direct impact on oral health, although most people don’t realize it. When you don’t stand up straight, or when you sit hunched over with your neck pushed forward you are putting inordinate amounts of pressure on your jaw and causing misalignment of your jaw and your teeth.
If you sit like that for hours every day, it can cause jaw pain and facial pain as well as misaligning your bite. When your teeth aren’t lining up properly you will put stress and wear on your teeth that can lead to bruxism as well as broken or chipped teeth and sore jaw.
Practicing yoga can help counter the impact of this daily bad posture. Yoga poses and stretches can realign your head and neck as well as strengthen your back and your core so that you can sit up straight and keep your body in good alignment even when you are sitting all day.
Yoga will also relieve tension in your muscles and soft tissue so that it’s easier for you to maintain good posture throughout the day. You can also do some yoga throughout the day to correct your posture after you’ve been sitting at your desk for several hours to prevent jaw problems caused by poor posture.
5. Yoga causes the body to make saliva
Saliva is critically important for good oral health. Saliva keeps mouth from drying out and it washes away the food debris and particles that can lead to tooth decay and gum inflammation. There are many different factors that can cause the body to not produce enough saliva, including:
- Dry air
- Breathing through the mouth
It’s very common for people to have bouts of dry mouth because their body isn’t making enough saliva. Yoga can help stimulate the body’s salivary glands to naturally produce more saliva. Certain types of yoga poses, like forward bends, naturally encourage the body to make more saliva that will keep your mouth healthy. There are even entire yoga sequences designed to help eliminate dry mouth.
Starting a regular yoga practice
There are many benefits to practicing yoga regularly. If your local yoga studio isn’t open, you can watch videos online and do yoga at home. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a class or practicing at home, yoga can help you reduce stress and inflammation and promote good oral health.
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.