How Owning a Dog Influences Your Overall Health …And Maybe Even Your Teeth
If you’ve browsed through any of our past blog posts, or have spent any time speaking with an experienced dentist like Dr. Norton at Lifetime Family Dental, you know how interconnected your overall health is with your oral health. So using that logic, can owning a dog help your teeth by positively influencing other aspects of your health? According to an article posted on FoxNews.com, perhaps in some way it can… just so long as you don’t try and share their chew toys!
There are three ways that dogs demonstrably influence your health in a positive way: lowered stress levels, a decreased risk of heart disease, and a boost to your immune system.
Most people would guess that spending time with a loving and happy dog might make you feel better. After all, there’s a reason why people who suffer from severe anxiety and other social disorders often benefit from emotional support dogs.
As it turns out, there is hard science to back up that inclination. A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia discovered that simply petting a dog causes your body to release oxytocin and serotonin–otherwise known as your body’s “happy hormones.” That effect was most pronounced when people petted their own dogs. Doing so for around 15-30 minutes lowered blood pressure by 10%!
How does that relate to your oral health? Well, high blood pressure or hypertension comes with many increased risk factors when it comes to your oral health. Those with elevated blood pressure often have higher levels of subgingival periodontal bacteria, suffer from dry mouth, and have a higher risk of stroke and other complications during dental surgery.
A Healthy Heart
While there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence that dog ownership is the explicit cause, the American Heart Association has found that those who do own dogs have a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. It may be linked to the exercise involved with walking the dog or simply related to the decrease in stress levels mentioned above.
While it’s also hard to prove cause and effect, there have been links between heart disease and gum disease as well. Inflammation is the commonality that may link the diseases. Inflammation is a sure sign of gum disease and the same bacteria found in those with periodontitis spreads to the heart and causes strokes. In the absence of gum disease, there is far less bacteria in the heart.
Supercharged Immune System
According to a study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, infants who were exposed to dogs or other pets prior to the age of 6 months had a decreased risk of allergies, eczema, upper respiratory infections and hay fever! Babies and puppies truly are a winning combination… and not just because they’re cute together!
Another plus for your immune system is the fact that dogs aid your gut health by exposing you to many types of “good” bacteria that are very beneficial to your gut microbiome.
So can owning a dog help your oral health? It certainly can’t hurt! All the evidence points to improvements to several key areas of your overall health that can only help you reach your optimal state of healthy living. And remember: adopt, don’t shop!
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (4/21/2017) r0sss (Flickr)