Oral Health and Its Importance to Your Physical Health
The mouth is an essential part of the body. It is what we use to speak, smile, and talk. Therefore, it is a worthy goal to have a healthy mouth, teeth, and gums. With good oral health, problems, such as bad breath, gum disease, and tooth loss, among many others. More importantly, it can help you have healthy teeth even when you are older.
According to researchers, there are many other reasons why you should brush and floss diligently. When you have a healthy mouth, it is key to a healthy body, too. Maintaining good oral hygiene can ward off various medical disorders. This blog post will tackle everything about oral or dental hygiene, why it is vital, and its connection to your overall physical health.
What is Oral Hygiene?
Dental or oral hygiene is the practice of keeping your mouth healthy. The mouth consists primarily of the teeth, gums, and tongue.
We’re sure you know what brushing your teeth is. It is a fundamental part of your oral hygiene. Of course, brushing alone is not the answer to removing dental plaque. It should be supplemented by other practices, including flossing and preventative care from dental professionals. Plaque is generally the instigator of all other dental problems, such as toothaches, periodontal disease, and cavities. When removed, you have the least chance of requiring treatments, such as root canals, crowns, and dental bridges.
At its core, dental hygiene is the dental care regimen that you perform when you are at home.
It consists of the following:
Brush with fluoride toothpaste to maintain good oral health. This activity takes about two minutes, and it can clean and even whiten your teeth. Even better, it is effective in preventing tooth decay and gum disease. These two dental problems are among the leading causes of tooth loss. Other benefits of regular brushing are having fresh breath and tooth stain removal.
But why do we need to brush our teeth?
The answer lies in the food and drinks we consume. Foods that have sugars and starches react with plaque and produce acid. This acid attacks the tooth enamel. If left on the teeth, it can cause tooth decay.
Apart from the teeth, dental plaque can also affect gum health. The gums can become red, swollen, and irritated. When brushing, you will notice there’s “pink in the sink” or blood when you spit. If untreated, gum irritation can progress to gingivitis. It is an oral condition that can lead to periodontitis or gum disease. Gingivitis is easily reversed by your dentist, mainly if it is diagnosed early.
To brush effectively, follow these techniques:
- Brush twice a day
- Use only a small amount of toothpaste
- Use gentle strokes
- Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle, moving it back and forth
- Brush every part of the teeth, meaning the outer and inner parts and the upper and lower molars or the teeth at the back
- Brush the biting surfaces as well
Don’t forget to brush your tongue, which will remove bacteria and help you achieve long-lasting fresh breath. Tongue scrapers or cleaners designed for the tongue may be more efficient in cleaning. However, if you do not have one, you can stick with your toothbrush.
One more thing: don’t rinse your mouth after brushing; otherwise, fluoride will get washed away.
Flossing using a dental floss product is a simple way of dealing with food particles that brushing alone cannot remove. There are areas that your toothbrush is unable to reach, especially in between teeth.
A common question regarding flossing is “When should you floss?” Is it better to floss before or after brushing? Some people choose to floss after brushing. It’s not bad, but there is one problem with this sequence. Any plaque, bacteria, or food particle released after flossing will remain in your mouth. You only get rid of it the next time you brush.
On the other hand, if you floss before brushing, you release the particles first. Then, brushing removes them from the mouth. There is less risk of dental plaque and gum disease. A 2018 study also confirmed that fluoride toothpaste works better if it is used after the particles are removed between the teeth.
Flossing at least once a day is enough to support brushing. You can floss in the morning or before you go to bed. Always be gentle when doing this task. Flossing aggressively can make your gums bleed.
Aside from brushing and flossing every day, you should also:
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
- Avoid sugary food and drinks as much as possible.
- Stop using toothpicks when you need to remove food stuck between your teeth.
- Schedule cleanings with a dental professional.
Your dental health team consists of dental health professionals and you, of course. These pros are dentists and dental hygienists. You may also require the assistance of dental specialists, such as periodontists, orthodontists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons. With everyone’s help, you can easily prevent dental problems that cause diminished life quality.
The Connection Between Oral Health and Your Overall Health
Many Australians do not know that oral health is connected to the health of the entire body. In fact, dental professionals see the mouth as the window to the physical health of the body. It serves as a useful vantage point for systemic disease detection, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS. These mentioned health conditions often show their first signs and symptoms in the mouth through lesions and other oral issues.
Doctors typically collect saliva for testing and finding different substances. For instance, saliva tests can show the cortisol levels in the body. This type of medical check is to determine the stress response of a newborn child. Saliva is also used to determine if there is a significant bone loss in men and women with a risk of osteoporosis. Some cancer markers can also be detected in the saliva.
The same test can also measure if there are any illegal drugs in your system, as well as environmental toxins and hormones. Your saliva is also used to check for antibodies that indicate HIV infection or hepatitis. In the future, it is possible that saliva testing can replace blood testing for the diagnosis of certain diseases, such as diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
Like the other parts of your body, the mouth is teeming with bacteria. There’s nothing to be scared of because they are mostly harmless. But the mouth is especially significant. It is the entry point to the insides of your body, namely your respiratory and digestive tracts. Unfortunately, some of the bacteria can lead to disorders in those mentioned areas.
With the help of the natural defences in the body, good oral health care can keep harmful bacteria under control. However, skipping brushing and flossing can lead to bacteria multiplying, reaching levels that can lead to tooth decay, gum diseases, and other oral infections.
Problems That Arise Due to Poor Oral Hygiene
Refusing to stick to good oral hygiene can lead to various problems. Let’s start with issues that take place in the mouth:
- Gum Disease: Also called gingivitis, gum disease is when the gums are inflamed. It happens when plaque has built up in large amounts. Symptoms include swelling and bleeding of gums when you brush or floss.
- Bad Breath: Not just a dental disease, having halitosis can seriously cause you to lose confidence. By regularly brushing and flossing, you can get rid of bad breath. In some instances, however, it is due to an underlying health problem or medication.
- Dental Caries or Cavities: Also known as tooth decay, cavities are among the most common dental issues. When you have caries, it means that there are damaged parts of the tooth and may even have holes (cavities) in them. This common dental issue occurs when bacteria and food coat the teeth. Acid is produced and forms a plaque, eating away at the tooth enamel and the connective tissue or dentin. Unfortunately, it can cause permanent tooth damage.
- Oral Cancer: It can be in the gums, tongue, lips, and cheeks. A dental professional will tell you if you have oral cancer. Although tobacco is the most common cause of oral cancer, having good oral hygiene can help, especially if you regularly visit your dentist.
For a more comprehensive list of oral health issues, please read our blog post here.
If you continue to have bad oral hygiene, your teeth and gums are not the only ones affected. Believe it or not, your whole health can be jeopardised. Science has confirmed that improper dental hygiene can cause the following problems:
- Endocarditis: This health issue infects the heart valves or chambers, particularly their inner lining. It happens when bacteria and germs from the mouth and other parts of the body reach the bloodstream. They then attach themselves to some parts of the heart.
- Cardiovascular Problems: There is no single explanation of how and why the connection between your oral health and cardiovascular system occurs. However, research has shown that oral bacteria can lead to clogged arteries, stroke, and heart disease.
- Birth Complications: Gum disease is usually linked to premature birth. Children whose mother is diagnosed with periodontitis have low birth weight.
- Dementia: Because of poor oral health, the brain can also be affected. Substances from inflamed gums can kill brain cells, resulting in memory loss. Gingivitis may also be a contributor to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Respiratory Infections: Bacteria in the teeth, gums, and mouth can travel to the lungs through the bloodstream. It may lead to acute bronchitis, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Diabetes is also associated with poor oral health. While it is not often considered a cause, it does contribute to the severity of this health problem. People with diabetes are already more susceptible to infections, which is why it is common for them to have gum disease. The issue here is that oral diseases can make diabetes even more difficult to manage.
Blood sugar levels can quickly go haywire due to gum disease. It is why it is more important than ever to take care of your oral health if you have diabetes.
20 Tips for a Good Oral and Dental Hygiene
Good dental hygiene starts at home, but it should not end there. Here are the top 20 ways to make sure you have a healthy mouth until you grow old:
- Brush twice daily. One of these times should be before bed.
- Floss at least once every day.
- Use a mouthwash after brushing and flossing at least once per day to remove remaining impurities in the mouth.
- You may want to switch from manual to an electric toothbrush. The latter can mimic the teeth cleaner that dentists use.
- Choose a brush with soft bristles, whether you use an electric or manual toothbrush. Don’t forget to replace the toothbrush every three to four months.
- When brushing, make sure to hit the gum line.
- Do not brush your teeth right after eating, especially if you have just eaten or drunk something acidic, such as lemons, coffee, and soft drinks. Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing.
- Brush your tongue using your toothbrush or scraper.
- Use fluoride toothpaste.
- Drink fluoridated water. In Australia, water fluoridation has been around since the 1960s. It is believed to be among the biggest contributors to improving people’s oral health.
- If you have a higher risk for tooth decay, you may have to up your fluoride dosage. Talk to your dentist or hygienist to get a suitable fluoride treatment.
- Avoid any tobacco products. If you are a smoker, you have more than enough reason to quit.
- You can drink alcoholic drinks but limit your consumption as much as you can.
- Drink more water, which is considered the best beverage to attain good health. As a rule of thumb, try to drink water after each meal. It helps remove sticky food, preparing your mouth for brushing.
- People with diabetes should do their utmost best to control the disease. In doing so, complications such as gum disease can be decreased significantly.
- Eat healthy for your mouth and overall health. Choose crunchy fruits and vegetables that are great sources of fibre. Eating crunchy stuff should begin while still young. Let the kids’ jaws do their work, so stop cutting food into tiny pieces or giving them mushy or overprocessed things. Avoid ready-to-eat options as much as you can.
- If you are taking medications that cause dry mouth, you can ask your doctor to recommend a different type. This way, you can avoid dry mouth, which can lead to bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay, among others. However, if it is not possible to switch to other drugs, you can help your mouth by drinking plenty of water and chewing gum (without sugar, of course). If you smoke and drink alcohol, it’s time to stop.
- Avoid sticky, sugary food, which can be difficult to remove from the mouth.
- If you have crooked or misaligned teeth, make sure that you go to an orthodontist to correct the problem. Straight teeth are easy to clean, so you do not have to worry about leftover food particles that you cannot reach by brushing if you have crooked teeth.
- Visit a dentist and have your teeth cleaned professionally.
It is a long list, but each task is not as difficult as you may think. The payoff, which is a healthy mouth for the rest of your life, is well worth the effort.
Professional Cleaning vs DIY Cleaning
Brushing and flossing at home are two of the most important things that you can do for your oral health. Even if you are confident that you are doing an excellent job with your dental hygiene, it’s not enough. At least once or twice a year, you should visit your dentist for professional cleaning. Only a dentist or hygienist can remove tartar and plaque that built up on your teeth.
Your toothbrush can indeed remove the plaque, but it accumulates not just on top of your teeth. It can build up between your teeth and even under the gum line. If you do not go through regular dental cleaning, plaque can become tartar, which is a hard substance that you cannot get rid of despite regular brushing and flossing.
During a dental cleaning, the hygienist or dentist will utilise ultrasonic vibration, along with powered cleaning instruments. They will remove your tartar or calculus from the enamel. Only a dental professional can perform the procedure that can reach the root surface, as well.
Another benefit of going to a dental professional is that you can stay ahead of any oral disease. The procedure is not just for cleaning but also for catching periodontal and other dental diseases in their early stages. The dentist can also look for other issues, such as tooth fractures or broken fillings.
Finally, you will leave the office with a brighter, whiter smile – guaranteed. The cleaning procedure can remove surface stains that resulted in teeth discolouration. You cannot achieve this effect through simple brushing.
There are two types of dental cleaning:
- Basic cleaning, which is also known as regular or standard cleaning, is the routine dental procedure. It is formally called prophylaxis or prophy where special tools are utilised to remove stains, as well as plaque and calculus. The process takes place above your gum line and is suitable for all types of teeth, from primary to adult. The appointment may include an exam with some X-rays.
- Deep cleaning is also called root planing and scaling. Deep cleaning is appropriate for people who may not have visited their dentist in a while. Basic cleaning also involves scaling, but deep cleaning is more thorough and extensive.
You can visit your dentist every six to 12 months for regular cleaning. If, however, the dental professional thinks that you may have gum disease, you may have to undergo a deep clean.
What about When You Wear Braces?
Crooked teeth can interfere with how you speak and eat. They can also affect how you clean your teeth. It is why you should have your orthodontist fix the problem. Having straight teeth is not just about aesthetics. They are useful in helping prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and other dental issues. With the lower risk of plaque build-up, you also have a reduced risk for health problems, including diabetes, heart diseases, and the others mentioned above.
If you are wearing braces, it’s more important than ever to take care of your teeth and oral health. The first few weeks may feel uncomfortable and inconvenient because you’re still getting used to brushing and flossing with your braces. However, you should continue with these tasks to ensure you have healthy, straight teeth.
For Invisalign wearers, the benefit is that they can remove the appliance when it is time to eat, as well as brushing and flossing. However, if you’re wearing conventional braces, the process is a little bit different.
So, how do you clean your teeth?
You already know brushing should be done twice a day, but since you wear braces, the recommendation is different. You will have to brush your teeth after each meal; otherwise, food particles will accumulate and will lead to plaque. Therefore, you should brush every time you eat, including snacks. This way, all food residue will be removed.
Here are some brushing tips for those wearing braces:
- Brush using short strokes around all the surfaces. These surfaces are the inside, outside, and biting or chewing surface of the teeth.
- Brush your gums as well, just above your braces. Do it gently in a circular motion and at a 45-degree angle.
- Carefully manoeuvre your brush around the wires, placing extra attention to the hooks because they attract most of the food particles.
- Bring your toothbrush with you if you work or go to school. If you do forget to take it with you, be sure to rinse your mouth well with water.
- An electric toothbrush is more preferred than a manual toothbrush. One with a round oscillating head is good enough for cleaning thoroughly. However, choosing an electric toothbrush is not a requirement. You can use any toothbrush you want but go for one with soft round bristles.
- With your toothpaste, select any fluoride-rich product. It is useful in preventing cavities while also strengthening your teeth and enamel.
Just like with regular oral hygiene, you also need to floss if you wear braces. It is possible! You can find flossing products that are designed especially for people with braces. You can ask your orthodontist for suggestions.
You can opt for a normal floss or even an interdental brush. Waxed floss is often helpful because this variant has a lower risk of getting caught on the wires. You do not have to floss each time you eat. Once a day is enough, usually at night or in the morning before you brush your teeth. Be sure to floss as gently as you can.
It is also beneficial to rinse with a fluoride mouthwash after brushing. You don’t need to rinse after each meal, but you can use the mouthwash once a day, just like flossing.
Your oral hygiene does not end here. You should also be careful with what you eat. Be smart in your food choices by avoiding hard and sticky foods. They are not only bad for your braces, but they also make cleaning much harder.
Finally, don’t forget to visit your Kingsley orthodontist regularly. A schedule is often set to allow adjustments to your dental appliance. Follow this schedule while ensuring you keep your mouth healthy when at home by brushing and flossing correctly.