Oral Hygiene: Getting to The Mouth of the Problem
Most of us have grown up being instructed over and over by our parents, dentists and teachers to brush our teeth twice a day, to floss daily and that sweets will rot our teeth. We probably took that advice with a grain of salt (or perhaps ignored it completely in our youth) but we can agree that this is all sound advice to foster healthy teeth and gums. What most of us may not know is just how much the health of our teeth affects the rest of our body and overall health. Everyone wants their teeth to look and feel nice but they are also important to speaking, eating and avoiding bad breath and pain. And it’s not just our teeth. Gum, tongue and overall mouth health are equally important. Here we’ll let you know the risks of letting your oral hygiene suffer and what you can do to prevent it.
What You’re Risking
Oral health may occur in the mouth but it can absolutely affect the health of the rest of your body. These are some of the issues that can occur if your dental hygiene suffers.
- Problems Eating – One thing many people may neglect to consider is that poor oral hygiene can affect your ability to eat nutritious food vital to a healthy life. If you can’t eat a well-rounded diet because of issues with your teeth, you will likely miss out on nutrients that your body requires.
- Self-esteem – Another lesser-considered side effect of poor dental health is lowered self-esteem. If speech becomes impeded by the health of your teeth or if they become visibly decayed and unhealthy to the point that others notice, it can negatively affect your self-esteem.
- Tooth Decay and Cavities – These are the most common ailments to affect teeth and the mouth. These can be caused by poor oral hygiene as well as exposure to fluoride and eating cancer-causing foods. Of course, the main disturbance of tooth decay and cavities is the pain, annoyance, and cost involved in getting them repaired by a dentist. If left unresolved, decayed teeth will become more and more problematic.
- Periodontal Disease – Commonly known as gum disease, periodontal disease is caused by infection of the gums, tissues and bone, and if it is left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. Pregnant mothers with periodontitis also risk having a premature baby with a lower birth weight.
- Endocarditis – This infection of the inner lining of the heart can occur when bacteria spreads from another part of the body, such as, you guessed it, the mouth. Untreated, endocarditis can damage heart valves leading to serious illness. This most often occurs in people who already have heart issues.
- Alzheimer’s Disease – Oddly enough, tooth loss before age 35 has been cited as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Nothing has been definitively proven, but it just goes to show how widely-spread the effects of poor oral health can be.
- Diabetes – Many people are first diagnosed with diabetes at the dentist because of the multiple abscesses present in their mouths. Gum disease may even speed the progression of diabetes.
There are many more diseases that oral hygiene has been linked to, although causation has not been fully studied. What scientists do know, and what all of these potential links suggest, is that dental hygiene is very important and closely related to our overall health. Physical afflictions rarely affect just one part of the body, so it makes a good deal of sense that dental disease will affect more than just the teeth. Educating people about the wide-reaching effects of mouth, teeth and gum health is important, and because many chronic diseases can affect oral health, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly and to make sure to tell him or her about any other health conditions or changes.
Keep It Clean
Most of the tips here are no-brainers – things most of us know we should be doing, even if we’re not. But all of this advice will help avoid the problems above. For healthy teeth and gums:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Floss every day.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Limit snacks in between meals.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are worn out (frayed or splayed).
- Visit your dentist regularly (it is generally recommended that you see your dentist about twice per year, but ask him or her if this is the correct cadence for you). Regular visits to the dentist are one of the most important factors in keeping your mouth healthy . Gum disease or other problems may not be evident or even painful but can be discovered by a dentist.
Just as there are recommendations of what to do, there are also suggestions for things to avoid to keep your teeth healthy. Keep these things to a minimum or avoid them altogether:
- Cough Drops – Yes, they may be necessary at times, but always try to avoid cough drops right before bed or at least brush your teeth after having one. Although they are medicine, cough drops contain lots of sugar that can rot your teeth.
- Gummy Candy – Just like cough drops they have lots of sugar,and can also get stuck in your teeth more than other treats. Eat them with a meal when there is more saliva to wash the sugary bits away, brush and floss after, or avoid them altogether.
- Soda and Sugary Drinks – You know they aren’t good for you but they’re especially not good for your teeth. The sugar and citric and phosphoric acids in soda, sports drinks and fruit juices eat away at tooth enamel, and diet sodas have even more acids in them than the regular stuff.
Nobody is perfect but following these guidelines most of the time will put you on the right path to dental health. If you slip up, eat a lot of sugar, or just feel that your teeth are unclean, brush and floss as soon as you can and you will be on a better track. It’s important to remember that dental health does not stand alone. Oral hygiene is closely related to the health of the rest of the body, so keep that in mind when you are making dietary and lifestyle decisions.
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