Year of the Horse: What it means for your oral health
SUMMARY: 2014 is the year of the horse. While the astrologists predict what's in store for the upcoming months, we share our own predictions.
Posted: January 31, 2014
The 2014 Chinese New Year started January 31 - the year of the Wood Horse - and as with every fresh start, questions surface about health, wealth and wisdom.
While most in China consider Feng Shui and their astrological predictions a fun pastime, the superstitious find important advice from horoscopes for the coming year. The horse is part of a 12-year-cycle of animals that constitute the Chinese Zodiac. It will be a year full of conflicts, according to some astrologers, who see wood as a fuel source for the energetic horse sign, since the later part of the year is "yin fire," raising the stakes for heated clashes. Though operating with different methods than astrologers, dentists will take their best shot at predictions.
What we do know is that oral health can predict overall health. Your mouth is filled with upwards of 6 billion bacteria - talk about a recipe for bad breath! When you consume food, carbohydrates interact with harmful microorganisms, and as the food breaks down on teeth, your pearly whites become susceptible to tooth decay.
Staying on top of good oral hygiene may be able to ward off problems beyond the mouth, too. A number of studies have shown that oral health issues can lead to systemic issues:
Cardiovascular Disease: When bacteria accumulates along the gum line, especially in the case of gum disease, the damaging bacteria can break off and enter our bloodstreams. On top of the more serious problems, plaque can cause intense halitosis. Although scientists are still debating whether or not gum disease may lie at the root of cardiovascular disease, bleeding gums, mouth sores and other scrapes can allow mouth microbes to find their way into the circulatory system and inflame tissues that line the heart (a condition called endocartis). Several studies published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggest this may lead to plaque build-up in arteries, potentially triggering aneurysms.
Diabetes: Gum disease, or periodontitis, shares a two-way street with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, not only are people with gum infections more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, but diabetics have a higher risk of encountering gum disease. Why? Since diabetes affects the body's ability to process blood sugar, those with insulin sensitivity have a decreased ability to fight the bacteria that infiltrates the mouth, resulting in oral health infections, cavities and gum disease. So, the nearly 26 million Americans with diabetes have a greater risk of suffering from mouth problems.
Premature birth: Women who give birth to babies well before their due date have a higher rate of mouth infections than those who deliver on time, according to research on maternal periodontitis. Scientists point out that mom's swollen gums release molecular signals called cytokines and a species named C-reactive protein, which move from the mouth and into the placenta via the mother's bloodstream.
These ailments are all good reasons to maintain regular dental upkeep - brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, rinsing and chewing sugar-free gum. Plus, people born in the year of the horse are said to be sort of like horses: active, animated and energetic. If you were born during this year (1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002), you shouldn't be too active that you forget good oral hygiene. Feng Shui master Chen Shuaifu says that no matter your Zodiac sign, 2014 should be the year to travel.
"Horses are legendary for their ability to run long distances on great journeys," Chen told NBC News. The takeaway? Whatever you do or where ever you go, don't forget your toothbrush! You heard it straight from the horse's mouth.