How Exercise Affects Your Dental Health

It's no secret that exercise is good for your overall health and wellness. But did you know your dental health also benefits from exercise? This article will cover how regular physical activity can lead to better oral health, as well as specific health-enhancing behaviors that you can begin today.

Why is it important to keep your teeth and gums healthy?

A woman showing her healthy teeth and gums

Many know that regular brushing and dental visits are key to healthy teeth and gums.  Most, however, would be surprised to know that periodontal disease is common in both developed and developing countries, affecting between 20-50% of the global population.

Periodontal disease can have a profound effect on your overall health and wellness.  Poor oral hygiene and related oral health issues have been linked to serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. For pregnant mothers, poor oral hygiene may also increase the risk of premature birth or low birth weight.

The main causes of periodontal disease

Foods with high intake of refined sugars

Dental problems, such as tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease, can be caused by a variety of factors. The most common causes include:

  • High intake of refined sugars:  Regularly consuming products high in sugar, such as candy, soft drinks, and sports drinks, can lead to an increase in oral health conditions like tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.
  • Hormonal changes in females:  Hormonal changes during adolescence or pregnancy are both risk factors that can cause gums to be more sensitive and prone to inflammation or infection.  Additionally, women who take birth control pills may experience reduced saliva flow, which can lead to dry mouth and increase the risk of developing oral health issues.
  • Poor brushing habits: Brushing your teeth regularly greatly reduces the build-up of plaque and removes food from the teeth, which can lead to an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth, increasing the risk of developing periodontal disease.
  • Diabetes mellitus: When diabetes is not properly managed, it can lead to an increased risk of dental problems due to a reduction in saliva in the mouth, which helps protect against bacteria and acids that can harm the teeth and gums.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Periodontal health relies upon regular and consistent care, including brushing, flossing, and the use of antiseptic mouthwash. Visiting the dentist regularly can also help decrease the build-up of bacteria and acids that can lead to enamel erosion, cavities, tooth decay, and gingivitis.
  • Plaque formation: Plaque is a combination of harmful bacteria and food residue that adheres to the surface of your teeth, like glue, over time. Plaque carries bacteria that produce acids that can erode tooth enamel and cause cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
  • Smoking:  Smoking, or the use of other tobacco products, not only causes staining and tooth discoloration, but it can also lead to gum recession, bad breath, and an increased risk of oral cancer.  Furthermore, the nicotine found in cigarettes and other tobacco products is harmful to artery walls and causes circulation complications which may eventually lead to venous insufficiency.
  • Stress: High levels of stress can decrease saliva production, thus decreasing the natural ability to protect against the buildup of harmful bacteria and acids, resulting in a higher risk of cavities and periodontal disease.

How to improve dental health?

A woman doing flossing

Maintaining oral and periodontal health is very important for overall whole-body health, as it can reduce and prevent the occurrence of severe periodontitis, tooth decay, and oral cancer. Below are 8 tips on how to boost oral health:

  1. Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste: Regular brushing is the most important step in preventing gum disease and other oral health conditions.  Brushing removes the build-up of plaque and bacteria, helping to boost periodontal health.
  2. Regularly use dental floss:  Flossing plays an important role in oral hygiene as it can get to hard-to-reach places between the teeth, reducing the risk of cavities, inflammation in the gums, and bad breath, and helps to prevent gum disease.
  3. Rinse the mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash: Rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash helps reduce plaque and prevent tooth decay and gum disease, as it contains antibacterial ingredients that help decrease the number of bacteria in the mouth.
  4. Replace your toothbrush every 3 months: The bristles of a toothbrush fray over time, becoming less effective at cleaning teeth and can even cause irritation and gum damage if used for too long. It is recommended to replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
  5. Reduce sugar intake: Reducing the intake of refined sugars is one of the most effective ways to prevent cavities and maintain good oral health. Sugar feeds bacteria in the mouth, which then produce acids, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Limit sugary foods and drinks, such as candy, cookies, cakes, soda, and sports drinks.
  6. Avoid using tobacco: Tobacco use is one of the most significant risk factors for periodontal diseases, and can cause serious damage to dental and oral health, increasing the risk of oral cancer, gum disease, and tooth loss.
  7. Manage stress levels: Stress has been linked to various health issues, including dental problems such as teeth grinding (bruxism) and even gum disease. Managing stress levels through activities, such as yoga, meditation, or regular physical exercise, can help reduce the risk of these problems.
  8. Visit your dentist regularly: Regular visits to your dentist allow you to detect any problems early on and provide preventive care that will help keep your teeth healthy and strong. Regular visits also allow for professional cleanings, which can remove plaque buildup in hard-to-reach areas!

By following these tips, better oral health is possible and will keep your teeth and gums healthy for years to come!

Does exercise improve dental health?

Evidence suggests that regular exercise and physical fitness can have positive effects on oral health. One study showed that people who exercised regularly reduced their risk of periodontitis and the development of dental cavities.  An additional study revealed that people who exercise regularly tend to have better oral hygiene than those living sedentary lives.

How does exercise affect dental health?

As this article has covered, exercise improves your overall wellness, including dental health.  Below are several health-enhancing behaviors that lead to better oral health:

Physical fitness.

A woman who wants to bite food with strong and healthy teeth

Physical fitness contributes to better oral health because it increases the strength of muscles used for chewing and provides more control over biting, helping to prevent malocclusion.

Reduce the risk of periodontitis.

Regular physical activity can boost saliva production, which helps keep bacteria at bay and increase blood flow to the gums. Healthy saliva production prevents the excessive accumulation of bacteria in the mouth that can lead to periodontitis.

Reduce inflammation.

Inflammation increases the risk of developing dental issues, including gum disease and cavities. Exercising can increase endorphin levels, which has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation levels.  

Increased blood flow and circulatory health.

A picture of blood flow

When you engage in physical activity, more blood is pumped throughout the body, increasing overall circulation which includes the mouth, teeth, and gums.  

Healthy circulation can reduce inflammation, improve overall oral health, and help promote healing from dental-related issues. Furthermore, increasing blood flow can also help prevent the development of vein disease, heart disease, and other health conditions.

Reducing stress levels.

Not only does stress affect whole-body health, but it can also be a significant contributor to poor oral health and has been linked to various conditions, such as gingivitis, bruxism (teeth grinding), and TMJ disorder.  Exercise reduces stress levels, boosts mood, and increases endorphin production, which can lead to better overall oral health.

Prevent obesity.

Someone who is measuring his waist to prevent obesity

Finally, regular exercise promotes a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). A lower BMI and normal weight can reduce obesity, which is a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, chronic venous issues, as well as increased risk of developing periodontitis and other health issues.

It’s important to note that while exercise can have positive effects on oral health, it should not replace brushing, flossing or regular visits to your dentist. The combination of exercise and regular dental hygiene practices is essential for maintaining optimal oral health.

Which exercise is best for teeth and gums?

Two women are doing exercises to maintain their physical fitness

The best exercises for improving oral health are those that increase circulation, reduce stress levels, and improve general fitness. Aerobic exercises, such as walking, jogging, or cycling, are great options as they boost blood circulation throughout the body, including the mouth. Healthy circulation in the mouth increases saliva production, thereby reducing the risk of periodontal diseases and tooth decay.

Frequently Asked Questions

How dental health affects our overall health?

Poor oral hygiene can lead to issues such as bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, and even systemic infections like infective endocarditis. By taking steps to maintain good dental hygiene and visiting the dentist regularly, one can reduce the risk of these issues and improve their overall health.

Does exercise strengthen gums?

Exercise increases blood flow to your gums and increases the delivery of oxygen delivery, reverses gum health, and may even reverse some of the damage caused by periodontal disease. In addition to exercising, you can also massage your gums to help reduce the buildup of plaque and bacteria.

Does exercise improve crooked teeth?

Unfortunately, while exercise can boost oral health, it cannot correct crooked teeth.  To make a noticeable difference in the alignment of one’s teeth, orthodontic treatment such as braces or Invisalign is often necessary. Porcelain veneers may also be used to cover any existing gaps and create a more symmetrical smile.


Maintaining optimal oral health practices is important for many reasons! Regular exercise and physical fitness not only improve body health but also help keep your teeth and gums healthy.

If you have any questions or concerns about your dental health, contact us today.  At Smiles By Design San Diego we offer a free consultation for new patients!  We'll be happy to answer any questions you have to help you achieve optimal dental health.