Oral hygiene is probably the most neglected routine when it comes to healthcare. This week You! shares some tips on oral hygiene and why you should follow it on a daily basis...
Say Cheese!” That’s a commonly used phrase to have people smile widely for a picture. When you say cheese, you mimic a toothy smile which some people might be hesitant to offer. Because, having bad dental hygiene can make it difficult for anyone to say something as simple as ‘cheese’ or to smile. However, not being able to say cheese or smile pales in comparison to the avalanche of dental and oral diseases that you can suffer from if you take your oral hygiene for granted. Diseases such as gum disease, oral cancer and terrifyingly horrible breath (which is often an indication of other oral problems) can invade your mouth and make your life a living hell.
Researchers are also discovering new reasons to brush and floss. A healthy mouth may help you ward off medical disorders. Your mouth is a window into what’s going on in the rest of your body, often serving as a helpful vantage point for detecting the early signs and symptoms of systemic disease - a disease that affects or pertains to your entire body, not just one of its parts. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90 per cent of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms. Systemic conditions such as AIDS or diabetes often first become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems. This explains that there is a crucial connection of your oral health to your overall health.
If you happen to fall short on dental duty and an infection develops, your immune system attacks the infection, causing the gums to become inflamed, which can continue unless you get the infection under control. And having one infection leaves you more open to getting sick in other ways. Long-term inflammation can lead to damage to the gums and bone structure and cause problems throughout the body.
Apart from inflammation, an unhealthy mouth, especially if you have gum disease, may increase your risk of serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes and preterm labour. Also, failing to keep your teeth clean can build up plaque along your gumline, creating an environment for additional bacteria to accumulate in the space between your gums and your teeth. This gum infection is known as gingivitis. Left unchecked, gingivitis can lead to a more serious gum infection called periodontitis. And, the most severe form of this gum infection is called acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis, also known as trench mouth.
In light of that the case for good oral hygiene keeps getting stronger. Apart from caring about your dental hygiene, it is also important that you care for it in a proper way. Tweaking a few things in your routine can actually make a significant difference in your oral health. Following are few tips that can help you in maintain proper oral hygiene:
Brush it right: Brush your teeth twice a day, and when you brush, don’t rush. Take time to do a thorough job. Place your toothbrush at an approx 45-degree angle against the gums and move it back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes. Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath. Also, consider using an electric or battery-operated toothbrush, which can reduce plaque and a mild form of gum disease (gingivitis) more than does manual brushing. These devices are also helpful if you have arthritis or other problems that make it difficult to brush effectively.
Don’t forget to floss: You can’t reach the tight spaces between your teeth and under the gumline with a toothbrush. That’s why daily flossing is important. Break off about 18 inches (46 centimetres) of dental floss. Wind most of the floss around the middle finger on one hand, and the rest around the middle finger on the other hand. Grip the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers. Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Don’t snap the floss into your gums. When the floss reaches your gumline, curve it against one tooth. Take it one tooth at a time and unwind fresh floss as you progress to the rest of your teeth.
Avoid sugary foods and drinks: Bacteria in your mouth digest the foods you eat and specifically feed on the sugar, producing acids that can slowly dissolve tooth enamel and cause tooth decay. Carbonated drinks are the leading source of added sugar and most soft drinks have phosphoric and citric acids that wear away tooth enamel. Hard candies also put your teeth at risk because in addition to being full of sugar, they can also trigger a dental emergency such as a broken or chipped tooth. However, foods such as nuts, fruits (such as apples), cheese, chicken and vegetables are teeth friendly. (Something extra to know about cheese is that it causes your salivary gland to produce more saliva, which neutralises acid).
Don’t ignore the signs: See a dentist as soon as you notice any signs or symptoms that could suggest oral health problems like: red, tender or swollen gums; gums that bleed when you brush or floss; changes in the way your top and bottom teeth align with each other; unusual sensitivity to hot and cold; gums that begin pulling away from your teeth; persistent bad breath or an unusual taste in your mouth; difficulty swallowing; mouth ulcers or sores that don’t heal. Remember, early detection and treatment of problems with your gums, teeth and mouth can help ensure a lifetime of good oral and overall health.