An increasing number of studies have established a correlation between oral health, hygiene, and overall health. Gum disease increases the chance of having heart disease, dementia, and diabetes. Adults with gum disease are also four times as likely to have a stroke.
Over 50% of adults in the United States have some form of gum disease. There's a good chance you, or someone you know, has gum disease. So, how do you reduce your risk? First, let's look at the linkage between overall health and oral health.
What Happens if you have Poor Oral Hygiene?
Both children and adults can develop cavities, gum disease, and other problems. The enamel, the hard outer coating of the teeth, protects our pearly whites. Plaque naturally accumulates on teeth every day due to the different foods and drinks we consume. Over time, this bacteria starts to buildup and can eat a hole in the enamel.
While brushing and flossing are effective ways to shield the teeth from decay, you have to see the dentist once dental caries (cavities) occur. Just as importantly, poor oral hygiene leads to gum disease.
When plaque accumulates under and along the gum line, certain infections can emerge. This can harm the bone, which secures the teeth in place as well as the gums. The most serious form of gum disease is periodontal disease. In this situation, infection has become so severe, and as a consequence, the bone may deteriorate and can result in tooth loss.
Poor oral health may also be awful for a person's social life. Tiny food particles get trapped between the teeth and cause unpleasant breath (halitosis). This is the same compound that provides decayed eggs their distinctive smell.
On the other hand, good oral health is valuable for breath, gums, and teeth. Keep in mind that the bacteria in the mouth can travel throughout the body. As a result, this may cause many health complications that a person may not be aware of.
For many, the mouth is usually the most overlooked body part in terms of wellness. Yet, oral hygiene can be crucial to one's overall health. Apart from regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits at least twice a year, few people take much notice of oral health. However, what occurs in the mouth can point out serious and even detrimental underlying conditions.
What is the connection between overall health and oral health?
Like several areas of the body, the mouth contains harmless bacteria. Good oral health care like daily flossing and brushing, and the body's natural defense system, can help keep these germs under control.
Without regular and proper oral hygiene, bacteria can easily reach levels that might result in severe oral infections. This can include gum problems, tooth decay, and in severe cases, tooth loss.
However, certain medications, including diuretics, painkillers, antihistamines, and decongestants, can minimize saliva flow. Yet, saliva is what washes away food residue and balances the acid produced by the bacteria found in the mouth. This, in turn, shields a person from microbial overgrowth and may lead to different ailments.
Some research suggests that inflammation linked with periodontitis and oral bacteria may play an essential role in some illnesses. Indeed, diseases like HIV, AIDS, and diabetes can reduce the body's resistance to infection, making oral health complications worse.
What are the health conditions associated with oral health?
Oral health may affect, be affected by, or may contribute to different conditions and diseases such as:
- Cardiovascular disease. Some studies suggest that stroke, clogged arteries, and heart disease are associated with infections and inflammation that oral bacteria may cause.
- Endocarditis. This refers to an infection of the heart's inner lining, otherwise known as endocardium. Endocarditis usually occurs when germs or bacteria from other areas of the body disseminate through the bloodstream and attach to a person's heart.
- HIV or AIDS. Painful mucosal lesions are very common in people with HIV or AIDS.
- Conception and birth. Periodontitis has connections with low birth weight and premature birth.
- Osteoporosis. This causes bones to become brittle, possibly including jaw and tooth bones as well.
- Diabetes. This minimizes the body's resistance to certain infections, putting the gums at greater risk. Furthermore, gum problems seem to be more common and severe among people with diabetes. Studies reveal that people suffering from gum problems have more incredible difficulty controlling their blood glucose levels. The reverse is also true.
Due to these potential links, patients need to have a discussion with their dentist regarding their health complications. Asking a dental professional for input regarding the connections between general medications and oral health is also a good idea.
Oral health complications are painful, expensive, and may consume much of one's time. Thus, it is quite important to practice good oral hygiene to prevent costly oral health treatments in the future.
Here are 10 easy ways to take care of your teeth:
#1 Brush thoroughly with the right tools, stroke, angle, length, and pressure
Brushing starts with choosing the right toothbrush and toothpaste. Fortunately, a lot of options are available, including electric-powered toothbrushes and traditional toothbrushes with various variants of toothpaste for our dental needs.
When brushing, use circular strokes to get into the teeth's crevices. The brushing angle should be 45 degrees to the gums, as brushing at this angle helps remove the plaque that may have built up along the gum line.
Instead of brushing hard and fast, the proper way is to brush for two minutes. You can keep track of the time by listening to music or setting a timer. Also, brushing longer than two minutes can do your teeth more harm than good, as prolonged brushing can cause the wear of the gums' enamel and soreness.
Remember to brush for two minutes, applying the right pressure. If you are having issues with your pressure, you can use an electric toothbrush to do the job.
#2 Learn Floss Properly
We know flossing can sometimes be a hassle, but, like brushing, it is important in maintaining our oral health. We can rid our mouth of stubborn food particles or plaque that may have stuck between our teeth or unreachable by our toothbrush through flossing.
To floss using the traditional string floss, here are what you need to do:
- Wind 18 to 20 inches of the string around each hand's middle finger.
- Use your index fingers and thumbs to press the string lightly. Make sure to leave one to two inches in between.
- With your thumbs, direct the string as you floss.
- For between contacts of the lower teeth, guide the string using your index finger.
- Glide the string in zigzag motion between the teeth, binding it around the side of each tooth.
- Gently move the string up and down against the surface of each tooth and below the gum line.
- Remember to use the clean section of the string for every tooth so as not to transfer bacteria.
#3 Rinse using Mouthwash
Also known as a mouth rinse, mouth bath, or oral rinse, mouthwash is an antiseptic solution gargled to aid in preventing and treating dental issues such as bad breath, plaque buildup, gum disease, among others. It provides additional cleaning for the teeth, tongue, and mouth.
- For those with bad breath, a therapeutic mouthwash like antimicrobials can provide a long-term solution to the dental issue as it contains formulations and agents like essential oils, chlorine dioxide, terpene, among others that inhibit odor-causing compounds.
- For those with plaque and periodontal disease like gingivitis, rinsing with mouthwash can reduce plaque and develop gingivitis due to the antimicrobial ingredient present in the mouthwash chlorhexidine, which allows for better plaque control.
- For tooth decay, mouthwashes with fluoride ions can remineralize the teeth and lessen tooth decay chances.
- For those with dental pain, mouthwashes can also give topical pain relief thanks to the mouthwash anesthetics.
- For those with stained teeth, active ingredients in the mouthwash like carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide help reduce stains on teeth.
#4 Clean your Tongue
Cleaning your tongue is necessary for the achievement of optimum oral health condition. Majority of the bacteria in your mouth breed on the tongue's surface.
There are many ways to clean your tongue using the available objects at home, including your toothbrush, a teaspoon, and a tongue scraper.
- Using your toothbrush: With a dab of toothpaste, gently brush the tongue's surface, beginning from the back of the tongue and moving toward the opening of the mouth. Rinse with water. Make sure to use a soft toothbrush and gentle pressure so as not to injure your tongue.
- Using a specialized toothbrush: A specialized toothbrush has a built-in tongue scraper that you can use to clean the tongue.
- Using a tongue scraper: Made of soft, flexible plastic, a tongue scraper is an effective way to get a mucus-based layer of debris out of the tongue and your mouth. Like brushing, start from the back, working towards the mouth's opening, then rinse. Do not forget to wash your scraper with warm water after use.
- Using a teaspoon: First, moisten the teaspoon. Start from the back, then gently move towards the opening of the mouth. Rinse with water. When using a teaspoon, have it upside down.
#5 Clean your Toothbrush and Tongue Scraper
Maintain the cleanliness of the tools you use for your oral care. After use, give your toothbrush a good rinse. Although it may seem better to cover your toothbrush, the American Dental Association recommends otherwise. Instead of covering it, let your toothbrush to air dry.
Aside from your toothbrush, give your tongue scraper an excellent clean every after use as well.
#6 Change your Toothbrush
Although you may love your toothbrush now, get it replaced every three to four months or when the bristles begin to wear away, according to the American Dental Association. Having it replaced is vital as microorganisms can inhabit your toothbrush, which can be passed to your mouth when brushing. In turn, these microorganisms can cause oral infection. Additionally, it is better to have your toothbrush replaced after being sick to prevent sickness from recurring.
#7 Limit Your Sugar Intake and Eat Healthily
Bacteria love sugar. Too much sugar can lead to dental-related issues as bacteria use them as food to produce acid. Instead of sugary treats, snack on healthy alternatives like celery, carrot, apple, leafy vegetables, milk, cheese, yogurt, cashew, sesame seeds, broccoli, and other foods saliva production and contain antioxidants and vitamins.
#8 Stay Hydrated
Water is essential in keeping our mouth healthy because it washes away food particles, rinses out bacteria, and moistens the mouth to prevent dry mouth that can cause bad breath and other dental problems due to the limited supply of saliva.
#9 Say No to Smoking
Smoking is terrible for the body and can trigger diseases, including cancer. Moreover, smoking can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illnesses, including gum diseases and tooth decay.
#10 Visit Your Dentist
A visit to the dentist is imperative, especially in the prevention of dental diseases. Through routine dental check-ups, early indications of oral-related issues can be detected, and immediate treatment can be provided. Additionally, a dental visit is usually comprised of professional teeth cleaning, which can help fight off bacteria and rid the mouth of plaque buildup.