Studies have shown that regular yoga practice has many health benefits including decreasing blood pressure, reducing heart rate, and stress reduction. Yoga increases flexibility, strength and coordination – simultaneously and is an excellent form of weight-bearing exercise for prevention of bone loss. Yoga also targets the glands and organs of the body helping to regulate hormones that maintain bone density, which is important during menopause.
These facts are important to oral health because:
- Our teeth are supported by the jaw bone. Maintaining good bone density helps to prevent bone loss of the jaw and therefore tooth loss.
- Stress diminishes resistance to infections including gum disease and abscesses, and can make you more likely to develop canker sores and cold sores.
- The jaw muscles and joints (TMJ) become strained and painful if you grind or clench your teeth due to stress. This is termed bruxism, and can also wear down and crack your teeth, or cause you to bite your cheeks. Many yoga poses also help with alignment of the spine and relieve tension of the jaw, neck and shoulder muscles associated with TMJ dysfunction.
The Water Factor
Yoga, and exercise in general encourages us to drink more water, which is a good thing for your mouth! Water is naturally neutralizing and prevents a dry mouth. More water intake means more saliva. Our saliva is actually made up of ninety percent water. We must drink adequate amounts of water daily to promote good amounts of salivary production for all of these reasons:
- Saliva helps us to properly chew and swallow food
- Saliva contains enzymes to breakdown and digest food
- Saliva is essential for taste sensation
- Saliva hydrates & lubricates the oral tissues
- Saliva contains mucins which firmly settle on the tooth surface and create a protective layer
- Saliva contains lysozyme that attacks and perforates the cell walls of certain bacteria, and prevents overgrowth of oral microbial populations.
As we can see, water is not only great for hydration of the body and oral tissues, but since our mouths are natural incubators for bacteria, germs and acidity, regular water intake also helps to rinse, cleanse, and neutralize our mouth. This helps to reduce oral bacteria, prevent tooth decay, and promote healthy tissues and immune system function to fight oral disease. Finally, yoga can be good for oral health and overall health, simply because it encourages healthy lifestyles. This may prompt individuals to practice better dental hygiene. Many people who take part in yoga exercises feel inspired to also eat healthy diets, avoid smoking and generally stay in good physical shape. This attitude could also lead to better brushing and flossing habits. So don’t be surprised at your next dental visit when your dental hygienist tells you to brush, floss and sign up for a yoga class! Namaste & Happy Smiles!