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  • David Price

Oral hygiene – Healthy Mouth, Healthy You.


We were all told to clean our teeth twice a day, otherwise our teeth might fall out by our parents. Oral hygiene is undervalued in terms of its effects on health and nutrition. Effective oral care reduces infection and promotes health and also helps to maintain & retain your natural teeth.

Did you know that your oral health offers clues about your overall health, problems in your mouth may affect the rest of your body

Like other areas of the body, your mouth teems with bacteria — mostly harmless. The mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria can/may cause disease.

Normally the body's natural defences and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, keep bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Also, certain medicines — such as decongestants, antibiotics, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbes that multiply and lead to disease.

Saliva is essential for keeping oral infections at bay. Its protective, antibacterial properties maintain a healthy balance of resident bacteria, which include Staphylococcus and Candida, and it is also responsible for washing away debris and food particles (Cooley, 2002). Inflammation and infection can occur as a result of reduced saliva production, with the accumulation of debris forming plaque on teeth at the gum line, which leads to gingivitis, dental caries or periodontal disease. The process decalcifies teeth leaving microscopic crevices that can harbour pathogenic organisms, which can lead to abscess formation (Xavier, 2000).

Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some diseases. Certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body's resistance to infection, making oral health problems even more severe.

Conditions which can be directly linked to poor oral health?

  • Dental cavities

  • Gum Disease

  • Gingivitis – build up of plaque

  • Periodontitis – advanced stage of gun disease

  • Oral cancer

  • Endocarditis. This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.

  • Cardiovascular disease. Although the connection is not fully understood, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.

  • Pneumonia. Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

  • Cancer - Many studies have shown a strong correlation between people with gum disease and cancer. The strongest relationships are between gum disease and pancreatic cancer, and gum disease and oropharyngeal cancer. Even though experts undeniably believe there is a relationship between the two, the correlation between the cause and effect factors have not been scientifically proven yet.

  • Osteoporosis - A loss of bone tissue is present in both osteoporosis and periodontal disease. Osteoporosis mainly affects the bones in the hip, back and wrist, while gum disease mainly occurs in the teeth and jawbone. Clinical studies are trying to prove that inflammation from periodontal disease affects the bones throughout the body, not just the jawbone and teeth.

  • Alzheimer’s Disease / Dementia - Currently there are studies attempting to link gum disease and dementia. Experts believe this happens when the brain is repeatedly exposed to bacteria or other harmful agents from the gums. This bacteria causes immune responses which lead nerve cells to die resulting in potentially memory loss.

  • Diabetes. By reducing the body's resistance to infection, diabetes puts your gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes.

  • Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.

  • HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.

Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers and an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth (Sjogren's syndrome).


Oral hygiene protective measures ?

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with an electric toothbrush or soft-bristled brush using fluoride toothpaste.

  • Floss daily.

  • Use mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.

  • Eat a healthy diet and limit food with added sugars.

  • Replace your toothbrush head / toothbrush every three months or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.

  • Schedule regular 6 month check ups with the dentist and make sure you see the hygienist too.

  • Avoid or limit tobacco use.

  • Visit your Dentist as soon as you have an issue. Tell your dentist about the medications you take and about changes in your overall health, especially if you've recently been ill or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

Who has the better teeth UK or the USA ?

Its been a long standing view by Americans that UK population as a whole have bad teeth, Austin Powers did nothing to disprove this image. However, a British Medical Journal study back in 2015 showed that the UK have slightly better teeth that their USA counterparts. Lost teeth 7.31 to USA and 6.97 to the UK !

Summary

Healthy Mouth, Healthy You. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health. It can have a knock on effect to so many illnesses, if only our parents had stressed the importance of brushing, flossing and rinsing regularly we may have paid a bit more attention and made this part of our daily routine at an early age. However, its never too late to change and your teeth will feel amazingly clean after all that extra care and attention.

Brett’s view

It was really interesting to read about the connection between the health of your mouth and your heart. This reinforces the fact that you should visit the dentist every 6 months.

David’s view

After repeated cleaning whilst living and working in the USA to remove plaque, I decided to try and prevent the build up by increasing my oral hygiene each day. An hour with your jaw open is pretty sore, but hopefully that was enough to give me a wake up call to get cleaning each day ! I use floss and the periodontal sticks and still get told off by the dentist about a build up of plaque at the front !

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