What if I told you there was more to dental health than brushing, flossing, and regular checkups? What if I told you that yoga had an integral part to play? You might laugh, or roll your eyes, but considering how interconnected each part of the body is, it’s really not hard to follow the logic here. The benefits of yoga go far beyond improving flexibility and balance and improving one’s mental health — yoga can aid dental health as well.
Yoga Reduces Stress
While it’s well known that stress negatively impacts our cardiovascular system, digestive system, and mood, we often overlook its effect on the health of our teeth and gums. For instance, stress is often the reason why people grind their teeth. Clenching and grinding of the teeth causes them to chip, crack, and wear down over time. This can lead to sensitivity, nerve damage, receding gums, tooth decay, and even tooth loss.
Furthermore, stress can increase inflammation in your body. Under normal circumstances, the presence of certain types of oral bacteria can lead to gum inflammation. Chronic stress, however, can worsen this swelling, increasing the risk for gum disease.
Stress can also lead to emotional eating, which most often consists of sugary or starchy snacks. Prolonged exposure to these types of foods encourages the growth of oral bacteria and creates the perfect condition for the development of cavities.
This is where yoga comes in! Multiple studies have shown that practicing yoga is an amazing way to combat stress. Yoga asanas have an amazing way of engaging both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and over time, practicing yoga may help us maintain great control over our mental state. By regularly engaging in yogic exercises, you can prevent teeth grinding, ward off inflammation, and keep emotional eating to a minimum. There are a number of ways to practice yoga
While all forms of yoga will benefit your mental health, there are a number of yoga practices that directly target stress. Give these seated yoga positions for stress a try. You can also practice these yoga breathing techniques anywhere (no mat required!).
Yoga Improves Posture
Believe it or not, posture has a lot to do with dental health. Poor posture can cause the head to fall forward, pushing the jaw out and affecting the alignment of the teeth. Left unaided, this can result in jaw issues, such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Side effects of TMJ include chronic headaches, pain when opening the jaw, uneven tooth wear, cracked teeth, and pain when chewing or swallowing. Fortunately, yoga can help to improve posture and help take strain off the neck and jaw. Check in with your body using these six yoga poses for healthy posture. Your jaw–and entire body!–will feel better for it.
Yoga Increases Salivation
Saliva is an amazing compound. It rinses the mouth, removing food particles and bacteria. It also contains antibacterial enzymes which help to break down food and make it easier to swallow. When saliva production slows, and the mouth is allowed to go dry, bacteria flourish. Chronic dry mouth can lead to problems such as a buildup of plaque, tooth decay, and gum disease. That’s why it’s so important we keep our saliva flowing!
According to a 2013 study, yoga poses that include proper breathing techniques can actually stimulate saliva. Poses that incorporate twists, forward bends, and inverted stances stimulate the salivary glands and increase saliva production. Amazingly enough, yoga can prevent the mouth and throat from drying out. Challenge yourself to these creative yoga twists.
So there you have it! Yoga can reduce stress, improve posture, and stimulate saliva production, all of which help to counter a number of dental health issues. Combined with good oral hygiene habits (e.g. teeth brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings), yoga you can keep your teeth and gums in tip-top condition.
Do you regularly practice yoga? Have you noticed an improvement in your dental health?
Also by Liz: Millennials Are Under Crushing Stress, Science Says. Here’s How To Cope
Related: 7 Ways to Get Whiter Teeth Naturally
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