September 30, 2019 | Abby Caviness
Everyone’s mouth is different. While some people have perfect, straight pearly whites, others are a bit off-white and crooked. Regardless, all smiles are beautiful and should be cared for. In fact, they can all be cared for in the exact same way despite their other differences. In honor of October being National Dental Hygiene Month1, USHEALTH Group® is providing information on the importance of dental hygiene and why you should take more care of those teeth!*
Why Dental Hygiene is Important
How about we start with the basics: why should we care about our dental hygiene? Dental hygiene is a practice we learn as kids to form a habit of taking care of our teeth every day. However, when this practice is neglected, both minor and major issues can arise, including tooth decay, gum disease, and infections.
According to Medical News Today, “there are up to 700 different types of bacteria existing in our mouth.”2 Even though most of these bacteria are harmless, they can cause disease if they enter your digestive and respiratory tracts.3 And, since the mouth is the entry point to these areas of your body, it is important to clear your mouth of bacteria regularly to keep these bacteria from getting out of control. In fact, there are quite a few common diseases you may not realize are showing connections to poor dental hygiene.
Effects of Poor Dental Hygiene
Unfortunately, poor dental health caused by a lack of dental hygienics can cause serious problems in other areas of the body. Studies have shown the bacteria from the mouth can enter the digestive and respiratory tracts, but they can also migrate into the brain and blood stream, causing additional, more complicated issues. Take a look at a few of the effects of poor hygiene to motivate you:
In 2010, researchers from New York University found a link between gum inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease. Over the course of 20 years, researchers studied 152 participants and found a strong link between gum disease in 70-year-old Alzheimer patients and low scores for cognitive function. Later, in 2013, researchers from the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom found traces of a bacterium (Porphyromonas gingivalis) in brain samples taken from Alzheimer’s patients. To prove their point further, they took samples from healthy individuals and found no traces of the bacterium.
In 2007, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health reported evidence of a link between gum disease and pancreatic cancer. The researchers focused specifically on periodontitis, which affects the tissues supporting the teeth and causes lose of bone at the base of the teeth. Following the study of 51,000 men, the researchers found a 64 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer if they had a history of gum disease. Researchers believe this is caused by chemicals found in the mouths of people with gum disease, which travel down to the stomach, react with digestive chemicals, and create a favorable environment for pancreatic cancer. However, a later study was unable to prove that periodontitis caused pancreatic cancer—the study only proved they were linked.
Joint research by the University of Bristol in the UK and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, found people with bleeding gums due to poor dental hygiene could be at risk for heart disease. This is because the open wounds in the mouth allow bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause blood clots by sticking to platelets. The bacteria end up clumping the platelets together to use them as a shield against attack by immune cells, which also makes them less detectable to antibiotics.
As you can see, poor hygiene can cause more complicated issues that will make you wish you had just brushed your teeth more. Though, while brushing your teeth is the main ingredient for a healthy mouth, there are additional steps you should consider just to be safe!
Basic Dental Hygiene
If you make your dental hygiene part of your daily routine, it does not have to be complicated. Healthline provides some tips and best practices for proper dental hygiene you may want to consider moving forward to protect yourself from issues that arise from poor dental hygiene:4
Do not go to bed without brushing your teeth
After a full day of eating and drinking, it is important you wash away all residual food particles from your mouth. Additionally, if you drink soda, the chemicals and sugar left behind will eat at your enamel and yellow your teeth, so you will want to rinse them off and not let it sit on the surface of your teeth overnight.
Doctors recommend brushing for at least two minutes, taking your time with each tooth to remove plaque and food residue. Move the toothbrush in gentle, circular motions on the surface of each tooth, because unremoved plaque can harden and build up on each tooth.
Do not neglect brushing your tongue
The tongue is the main culprit in bad breath, so it is important to also remove the plaque and bacteria from the tongue. This way, you can always make a good impression and keep yourself safe from infection.
Use toothpaste containing fluoride
As tempting as it is to buy the toothpaste claiming it can whiten your teeth by 90 percent in two weeks, the main ingredient you should look for is fluoride. Though many have scrutinized the effects of fluoride, it is proven to be the leading defender against tooth decay, fighting germs, and providing a protective barrier around your teeth.
Mouthwash is another dental hygiene step people often tend to forget, but it is more important than you think. Using mouthwash can accomplish three things: reduces acid in the mouth, cleans hard-to-brush areas of your mouth, and re-mineralizes teeth. Doctors even say using mouthwash can be helpful for children and the elderly as a replacement for flossing.
Treat flossing as important as brushing
While flossing is a component many individuals forget, it is usually key for making sure your teeth are truly clean. However, there are more benefits to just cleanliness. Flossing also stimulates the gums, reduces plaque, and helps to lower inflammation in the gums.
Drink more water
While it is always beneficial to drink water, because it helps a variety of body functions, it is also good for your oral health. Water works very well to rinse your mouth of food and beverage residue between brushes. This way, the chemicals will not have as much time to sit on your teeth and eat away your enamel.
Eat crunchy fruits and vegetables
Fresh, crunchy vegetables provide your jaw a workout and your body additional healthy fiber. Eating these kinds of produce can even work to clean plaque off the surface of the teeth and make your toothbrush job a little easier!
Limit sugary and acidic foods
When sugar enters the mouth, it converts into an acid, which erodes the enamel of the teeth. Fun fact: that doesn’t grow back. Once your enamel is eaten away, you cannot get it back. So, being mindful of fruits, teas, and coffee, which are culprits in eating away your enamel, can help you to protect and maintain the surface of your teeth.
Visit your dentist at least twice a year
Even if you take great care of your teeth, there could still be an issue lurking beneath the surface, like cavities! Your dentist can also clean your teeth better and deeper than a simple toothbrush and spot minor issues before they become major.
Dental hygiene is not just about having a pearly white smile and fresh breath. Having poor habits of taking care of your mouth can affect many other areas of the body. So, take initiative for National Dental Hygiene Month and start caring for your mouth the way you should!
*This material is provided by USHEALTH Group for informational/educational purposes only and should not replace medical/clinical advice or direction from your health care provider.
- Colgate, “October is National Dental Hygiene Month,” Colgate.com, accessed September 27, 2019, https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/life-stages/adult-oral-care/ada-october-is-national-dental-hygiene-month
- Mayo Clinic Staff, “Oral health: A window to your overall health,” MayoClinic.org, published June 4, 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/best-practices-for-healthy-teeth#1
- Cafasso, Jacquelyn, “Everything You Need to Know About Dental and Oral Health,” Healthline.com, last modified May 25, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health
- Cherney, Kristeen, “11 Ways to Keep Your Teeth Healthy,” Healthline.com, last modified November 13, 2017, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475