Dictionaries tell us that oral health is “The optimal state of the mouth and normal functioning of the organs of the mouth without evidence of disease.” This definition is, of course, quite accurate. However, it does not even begin to convey the true importance of oral health because it is the key portal to the health of our entire bodies. On the one hand, many diseases begin their initial development or showing their symptoms within the mouth before proceeding into other areas of the body. On the other hand, diseases of the mouth such as gum or tooth infections can easily spread into the bloodstream and infect other organs.
The Importance of Oral Health
Good oral health does not just happen. It needs to be achieved through diligent daily care of brushing and flossing as well as by visiting the dental office for regular checkups and maintenance. The saliva of the mouth contains enzymes that destroy the myriads of bacteria that are ever-present in our mouths but it needs help. Otherwise the bacteria will prevail, will multiply exponentially and will lead to infections such as the very serious gum infection, periodontitis. And once the gums are infected, the opportunistic bacteria will find their way into the bloodstream and soon we find ourselves having to deal with other infections as well.
Invasive dental procedures such as surgeries, tooth extractions, root canals and dental hygiene all cause lesions in the gums which can often allow the bacteria that is normally kept in check to penetrate through the wound into the bloodstream and to settle elsewhere and cause problems. Certain medication may decrease the flow of saliva and thus diminish the ability to control the bacteria.
Conditions Linked to Oral Health
If keeping your smile sparkling and spotlessly white while sustaining your breath fresh and clean are not good enough reasons to take optimal care of your mouth, than consider the consequences. The list of conditions that are linked to oral health is extensive but some of the most commonly occurring ones are:
- Diabetes has been found to increase the risk for developing gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, dry mouth due to decreased production of saliva, and a number of other infections of the mouth. The link also works in the other direction as poor oral health can make diabetes more difficult to control and infections in the mouth often increase the blood sugar levels so that administration of more insulin is required.
- The cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke.
- Premature births.
- Quite frequently, the first signs of bone loss due to osteoporosis appear in the jawbones which can lead to mouth infections and tooth loss.
- HIV/AIDS patients often have ulcers and lesions in the mouth as well as dryness as less saliva is secreted.
- Sjogren’s syndrome, various cancers, most of the eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse as well as STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) such as syphilis and gonorrhea tend to have their beginnings in the mouth.
5 Steps to Better Oral Health
1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
Do not rush when brushing your teeth. Dentists recommend rinsing your mouth with water after every meal. This cleans your mouth from any food left- overs.
2. Keep your equipment clean.
Rinse your toothbrush with water after brushing. Do not store it in closed containers, which can encourage the growth of bacteria.
3. Practice good technique.
Brush your teeth with short back-and-forth motions. Remember to brush the inside and chewing surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue.
You can’t reach the tight spaces between your teeth or under your gum line with a toothbrush. That’s
why daily flossing is essential.
4. Regular dentist check-up.
Having regular dental check-ups significantly reduces the chances of developing any infections or decay that may lead to teeth loss in the future.
5. Limit snacks, particularly those high in simple sugars, and eat a balanced diet.
Every time you eat, bits of food become lodged in your teeth. This food provides fuel for the bacteria in plaque. The bacteria produce acid. Each time you eat food containing sugars or starches, your teeth are exposed to these acids for 20 minutes or more. This occurs more often if you eat snacks and the food stays on your teeth for a while. These repeated acid attacks can break down the enamel surface of your teeth, leading to a cavity. If you must snack, brush your teeth or chew sugarless gum afterwards.A balanced diet is also important. Not getting enough minerals and vitamins may affect your oral health, as well as your general health.
Always remember the following slogan: While your eyes are windows to your soul, your mouth is a door to your body’s wellness and the front line presentation of your good looks.