HAVE YOU EVER HEARD your favorite music performed live? You likely noticed things that often don’t come across in a low-quality recording—the exact texture of the instruments and richness of the sound, for example. The parts of our auditory system that pick these things up are delicate, and can be dulled by trauma or disease. What does this have to do with brushing your teeth? A lot, actually! Research is making it clear how far-reaching the benefits of good oral health are, including links to reduced risk of hearing loss.
It All Begins With Bacteria
Our mouths are home to billions of microbes of many different species. Many of them aren’t anything to worry about, but some of the more harmful microbes in dental plaque cause inflammation and tooth decay. If not removed by regular brushing and flossing, these bacteria will work their way into the bloodstream through infected, irritated gums. Once inside the circulatory system, they inflame and narrow blood vessels in other parts of the body. When blood vessels that feed the auditory system are restricted, the fragile “hairs” that pick up sounds in the inner ear—called stereocilia—can be damaged, leading to hearing loss. And here’s the kicker: stereocilia don’t grow back.
3 Keys to Reduce Risk of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss occurs naturally with age—in fact, it affects about one out of three people by age 65. But there are steps each of us can take to reduce the risk and severity of the problem. Here are three easy-to-remember points:
- Maintain good oral hygiene. Twice daily brushing and daily flossing will keep inflammation-causing bacteria from causing problems.
- Wear hearing protection like earplugs or earmuffs if you work around constant loud noises.
- Turn down your music, especially young people with headphones. If someone can overhear it in your headphones, it’s probably too loud.
Oral Care Improves All Areas of Life
Hearing is just one part of life preserved or enhanced by good hygiene. It’s impossible to ignore how much oral care, or the lack thereof, affects day-to-day living. We have a “big picture” view of dentistry as an essential component of overall health, so our advice and treatment is focused on making lasting improvements to quality of life!