That Warrior Pose Could Be Good for Your Gums, Too!

Warrior 2 poseYoga is traditionally thought of as a way to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and reduce stress. Sure, it does all of that, but did you know that it’s linked to healthier teeth and gums, too?

One way is by improving blood flow. As a recent post at India’s Tribune noted,

The strength of our teeth is directly related to the strength of our bones. The organ responsible for stimulating the growth of bones is the pituitary gland. So any posture or asana like sirshasana [a headstand pose], which will stimulate more blood to this gland will increase the strength of bones and teeth.

Here are more poses that can help with circulation.

Then there’s yoga’s well-known ability to reduce stress. Chronic stress is one of the major risk factors for gum disease. It can also lead to bruxing – habitual clenching and grinding – which can cause gum recession and damage teeth.

But there’s another way in which stress can have a negative impact on your oral health. As a paper earlier this year in the International Journal of Dentistry Research noted, it can lead us to neglect our oral health.

People who are stressed are less likely to give their teeth and gums the proper oral care. Yoga is one of the most effective treatment[s] for stress. Yoga reduce[s] the stress, improve[s] the [oxidative] status of body, improve[s] the immune system, and reduces chronic gingival inflammation. Yoga also improve[s] the life style more towards the natural. All these effects help…in better maintenance of oral hygiene, and reduction in gingival inflammation and prevention of dental diseases.

Other benefits the authors note include maintaining a healthy balance of saliva, preventing autonomic dysregulation, and managing health overall.

Other research has shown yoga’s ability to reduce inflammation. For instance, a 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that regular yoga practice lowers levels of two key markers of inflammation, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6).

It also reduces the extent of increase of TNF-α and IL-6 to a physical challenge of moderate exercise and strenuous exercise. There is no significant gender difference in the TNF-α and IL-6 levels. Regular practice of yoga can protect the individual against inflammatory diseases by favourably altering pro-inflammatory cytokine levels.

Even yoga’s impact on posture can affect your oral-systemic health. As Yoganonymous notes,

Poor posture can affect just about every part of your body, including your mouth. When one’s posture is poor, it can cause the lower jaw to move forward. It can even affect the alignment of the teeth and result in a condition called TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder can result in dental problems, such as teeth grinding. It can also cause a person to have difficulty chewing and swallowing. Additionally, TMJ disorder can cause pain in the face and jaw.

Not to mention the head, neck, and shoulders. Yoga may help prevent TMJ problems from arising in the first place, but it can also be one way to find some relief from the pain (in addition to long-term dental solutions).

Partner yoga with practices like good home hygiene and mindful nutrition, and you only add to the whole-body approach to maintaining healthy teeth and gums.

Image by lululemon athletica

The Consequences of Stress Show Up in Your Teeth – Can Forest Bathing Help?

Most of us can, and do, tolerate stress in our daily lives – from raising kids and caring for elders to working a job we’d rather not spend our life energy on. We may feel we have little control over the challenges we face, and less and less time to make good decisions about our health or well-being.

And we’re in this together, one nation of stressed out people.

Even if we don’t consider ourselves stressed (come on, really?), many of us sit in front of computer screens all day in jobs that require intense concentration. Even commuting to and fro by car can require intense focus. And that’s another kind of stress.

More often than not, this shows up in our mouths. While most people deny that they clench their teeth, most of us do. Don’t believe it? There’s a simple way to check. Stick out your tongue in front of a mirror. Do you see lacy scallops on its edges? If so, you’re likely clenching your teeth without even knowing it.

Clenching can contribute to headaches, neck pain, and dental issues including TMJ, fractured teeth, and tooth mobility.

Certainly, there are lots of ways to treat dental issues that arise from clenching and grinding (a/k/a bruxing). We can provide relief from symptoms, with or without oral appliance therapy.

But you have the power to improve things, too. Better manage the stress in your life, and many stress-related symptoms can disappear.

forest bathingThe Japanese seem to have found an easy and enjoyable way to reduce stress with a practice known as shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. This is the practice of walking through the forest alone or with others to metaphorically “bathe” in green space, to let nature surround you. It provides an opportunity to be in nature with no requirements, just to be with the trees.

After a powerful health benefit of forest bathing was determined, it was officially adopted into Japan’s national health program in 1982.

Proving this is no woo practice, Japan has designated almost 50 nature trails for shinrin-yoku, with plans to double that number over 10 years. It has also spent $4 million on research to determine the specific health benefits.

Make no mistake, the benefits are real. A 2010 study out of Chiba University studied 280 participants as they went into the woods for a half-hour forest bath. Its authors found that even a short trip to the forest lowered blood pressure and heart rate. They noted that taking in the forest, compared with walking in the city, decreased cortisol, a stress hormone, production by 12.4%. They also found an increase in parasympathetic nerve activity and a decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, indicating relaxation.

Perhaps we, too, can find relief from stress and intense concentration – a simple walk in nature, where we let it wash over us and through us, like a magical healing balm that can unclench the knots in our minds, hearts, and, yes, even our jaws.

Image by Martin Gommel