- Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these 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.
Did you know that your oral health offers clues about your overall health or that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body?
Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these 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.
In addition, certain medication such as decongestants, 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 microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
Effects of poor oral health
• Endocarditis - This is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
• Cardiovascular disease - Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
• Pregnancy and birth - Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Certain conditions might also affect your oral health, including:
• Diabetes - This reduces the body’s resistance to infection. This makes diabetic patients at a higher risk of contracting gum disease.
• HIV/AIDS - Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
• Alzheimer’s disease - Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
Rules for good oral hygiene
Keeping the area where your teeth meet your gums clean can prevent gum disease, while keeping your tooth surfaces clean can help you stave off cavities. Below are some basics to follow:
• Brush your teeth twice a day. When you brush, don’t rush. Take time to do a thorough job.
• Use the proper equipment. Use fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits your mouth comfortably. Consider using an electric or battery-operated toothbrush, which can reduce plaque more than manual brushing.
• Practice good technique. Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle aiming the bristles toward the area where your tooth meets your gum. Gently brush with short back-and-forth motions. Remember to brush the outside, inside and chewing surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue.
• Keep your equipment clean. Always rinse your toothbrush with water after brushing. Store your toothbrush in an upright position and allow it to air-dry until using it again. Try to keep it separate from other toothbrushes in the same holder to prevent cross-contamination. Don’t routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers, which can encourage the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast.
• Know when to replace your toothbrush. Invest in a new toothbrush every three to four months — or if the bristles become irregular or frayed.
You can’t reach the tight spaces between your teeth and under the with a toothbrush. That’s why daily flossing is equally important.