The first thing I notice when I meet someone (especially men) are their teeth.
I laugh with my girlfriends that I can tell right away if someone is a “neat freak” or “all around sloppy” based on that first impression.
This would have everything to do with the sole fact that I’m a dental hygienist and I’m crazy about nice teeth.
Sure, we floss daily and use the newest electric toothbrush on the market to strive towards optimum oral health. But what if practicing yoga could actually affect the health of our teeth and gums, and ultimately our smiles?
Well, guess what? It can.
1. Yoga Alleviates Stress. Stress is the bearer of bad news and may be the number one reason why we turn to our mats. The muscles in our bodies that tend to carry the most stress are in our back, neck and shoulders, which connect to our face and jaw. This often leads to grinding or clenching which can cause the edges of our enamel to wear down, giving an impression of short or “stubby” teeth. We have known for years that stress also causes inflammation in the body. This includes the gums! When the gums are inflamed, they will often bleed easily and can sometimes even be painful. By alleviating stress and promoting relaxation through yoga, we will inadvertently obtain healthier teeth and gums. This will keep our smiles looking beautiful!
2. Yoga Improves Posture. Many of us slump over a computer all day long. This slouching position can force our skull to sit backwards over our spine, causing the mandible (lower jaw) to move forward. This can bring our teeth out of alignment resulting in a condition called TMJ disorder.* TMJ disorder can cause a difficulty in chewing, swallowing, and even opening or closing the mouth. Additionally, misalignment of the teeth can cause them to be overloaded with stress leading to pain in the face and jaw.
Postures like Utkatasana (chair pose) keep our tail bone tucked in, refraining a curve in the lower back. When done correctly and often, this posture will help keep our head, neck and spine in alignment. This indirectly aligns our jaw which aligns our teeth, showing how everything is connected to proper posture.
3. Yoga Helps Lower Blood Pressure. One of the most highly prescribed drugs in America are those aimed towards reducing high blood pressure. Furthermore, dry mouth is one of the main side effects of these medications. Our saliva bathes our teeth all day long in calcium and phosphate minerals which protect them. When our salivary flow decreases, we are at a much higher risk of dental decay. The relaxation and mindfulness techniques that we practice during yoga have shown to help the heart slow down and not have to work as hard to pump blood through the body. This action lowers blood pressure, keeps us off blood pressure medications, and reduces our risk of xerostomia (dry mouth).
Our teeth and smile play a huge role in our confidence and the way we feel about ourselves. I’m not just talking esthetically, but functionally. The more stress we can release in our back, neck and shoulders, the better our mouths will look and feel. Our smiles will be larger, our posture will be better and hopefully our anxiety will dissipate, reducing the risk of high blood pressure.
How fortunate we are to have these bodies that are this internally connected with themselves. By practicing yoga and mindfulness we can facilitate healthy bodies from our teeth or our heart. That’s mind boggling to me, just how much control we have. And that is definitely something worth smiling about.
*There are several causes for TMJ disorder, poor posture leading to misalignment of the jaw being one of them.