Written by Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Becca Malizia, BS, and Ellen M. Martin
Do you often find yourself craving a midnight snack? Who thinks about their oral health while they exercise, or blames poor oral health for their bad moods? While neither of these seem obviously related to oral healthcare, new studies show that oral health may play a more significant role in affecting your overall health.
Eating at night is likely to negatively influence oral health. Many of those who engage in night eating report that they do not floss or brush after eating, and most of the foods consumed during this time are unhealthy, sugar-rich foods (1). Salivary flow— the amount of saliva you produce, changes throughout the cycle of day and night. As a general rule of thumb, people make less saliva at night (1). While not a seemingly big deal, this could increase the likelihood of these individuals developing periodontal disease. Although not oral health per se, eating at night means fewer hours of fasting in a day and has been associated with higher BMI and greater risk of obesity and diabetes (1).
In addition to night eating, snacking at any time can have adverse effects on your oral health (2). Most people brush only twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Flossing is also recommended once per day, although most people don’t do this. Snacking throughout the day can alter mouth pH, throwing it out of balance. Most snack foods are processed and sugary (even if they aren’t classically sweet, like chips), which can cause acid build up, promoting plaque formation. Brushing in between meals or after snacking is also very rare, leaving those who snack constantly at increased risk for developing poor oral health.
Oral Microbiome and Timing of Eating
A recent study done in 2018 also connects the oral and gut microbiomes to the timing of eating! Since this is the first study of its kind, the findings are not definitive, but one thing is quite clear— when you eat does affect your oral and gut microbiomes! They concluded that “food timing can influence the daily rhythms of the salivary microbiota diversity and abundance”(3). This influence suggests that the composition of the oral microbiome changes depending on what times you are eating.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help counteract acid build up by buffering your mouth to a normal pH and promoting saliva production. Try opting for regular water as opposed to fizzy or carbonated water. Bubbly waters have a lower pH compared to still water, and so is slightly acidic, which can adversely affect your mouth. If you can’t get out of the habit of snacking, try keeping a toothbrush at the office or at least drink water alongside and after snacking! To read more about what you drink and how it affects your oral health click here.
You can also try Elementa’s Nano Silver Mouthrinse for a revolutionary way to balance your mouth and discourage plaque build up! To learn more about their product click here.
While some literature exists on elite and endurance athletes suffering from high rates of dental erosion (4,5), there is new evidence to suggest that moderate exercise is good for oral health. Perhaps the phenomenon follows a u-shaped curve, with no exercise and extreme training having adverse oral effects, while moderate exercise provides oral benefits…
A study done in 2018 found that exercise may actually be useful as a therapeutic intervention, improving the state of periodontal disease (6). It was an experimental study that split participants into two groups, one of which received an exercise intervention program. The results showed that there was significantly reduced probing pocket depth (PPD) and number of teeth bleeding on probing (BOP)— two commonly used measurements of periodontal disease in the exercise intervention group. Since this is the first study to show that exercise could possibly be an effective way to help treat and improve periodontal disease, more research must be done on this exciting topic!
Oral Health and Your Mood
The connection between the brain and gut, sometimes referred to as the brain-gut axis or the mind-gut barrier, is well documented in science. As this area is more widely studied, a connection between oral health and the brain is also coming to light. Certain studies have shown that happiness and good oral health are highly correlated (7, 8). While correlation does not guarantee causation, it is clear that the quality of your mouth is linked to the quality of your life. Cool, right?
This could suggest that a possible way to boost your mood could be taking care of your mouth! It can’t hurt to take good care of your mouth, and it just might boost your moods. Check out our article on how to naturally improve your mood for more information here.
Questions regarding the latest literature on oral health? Please comment below and keep posted for an update.
DrBonnie360 will be speaking on the Oral Microbiome and its health and business implications at the AIRS Conference in Barcelona, May, 2019.
- Lundgren, Jennifer et al. “The relationship of night eating to oral health and obesity in community dental clinic patients.” Operative Dentistry. 2009. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jennifer_Lundgren/publication/44607823_The_relationship_of_night_eating_to_oral_health_and_obesity_in_community_dental_clinic_patients/links/54be28660cf218da9391d9a4/The-relationship-of-night-eating-to-oral-health-and-obesity-in-community-dental-clinic-patients.pdf
- Maliderou, M, Reeves, S, and Noble, C. “The effect of social demographic factors, snack consumption and vending machine use on oral health of children living in London.” British Dental Journal. 201, pages 441–444. 2006. https://www.nature.com/articles/4814072
- Collado, Mari et al. “Timing of food intake impacts daily rhythms of human salivary microbiota: a randomized, crossover study.” The Faseb Journal. 2018. https://www.fasebj.org/doi/full/10.1096/fj.201700697RR
- Needleman, I et al. “Oral health and elite sport performance.” British Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol 49. Issue 1. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/1/3.short
- Frese, C et al. “Effect of endurance training on dental erosion, caries, and saliva.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. Vol 25. Issue 3. 2014. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/sms.12266
- Omori, S et al. “Exercise habituation is effective for improvement of periodontal disease status: a prospective intervention study.” Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management. 14: 565–574. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5865566/
- Dumitrescu, AL et al. “Relation of achievement motives, satisfaction with life, happiness and oral health in Romanian university students.” Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry. Vol 8. Issue 1. 15-22. 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20372670
- Tuchtenhagen, Simone et al. “The influence of normative and subjective oral health status on schoolchildren’s happiness.” BioMed Central Oral Health. Vol 15. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320443/