Most everyone wants to look their personal best. Ask nearly anyone and they will probably tell you that having a bright smile and fresh breath is important. But the importance of good oral care goes well beyond cosmetic concerns. Dental health is a vital part of a person’s overall health and well-being.
Dangers of Poor Oral Hygiene
Obviously, taking care of your teeth will prevent the need for costly and painful dental procedures like fillings, root canals, crowns, or even dentures. But if you don’t practice good oral hygiene you can develop far more serious and difficult to remedy problems, especially if you have an underlying health condition like heart disease or diabetes.
Periodontal (Gum) Disease
The two most common forms of periodontal disease, or gum disease, are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums often caused by the build-up of plaque or bacteria at or below the gum line. Smoking, a poor diet, inadequate brushing, and lack of flossing can make the problem worse. Periodontitis is the inflammation or disintegration of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth which are caused by the bacterial build-up and the body’s immune response to those bacteria. Gingivitis and periodontitis can both lead to tooth loss and infection.
Oral Hygiene and Your Overall Health
Have you ever wondered why your dentist might’ve ordered a short course of oral antibiotics before working extensively on your teeth? Your gums and mouth are full of bacteria even when you take good care of them. If you don’t have good oral health, or you need an invasive procedure like a root canal or crown, it’s easy for the bacteria present in your mouth to travel to your heart, causing infections like endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart’s inner lining or valves.
Poor oral health, in general, has also been shown to increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.
Practicing Good Oral Hygiene
Dentists recommend getting your teeth professionally cleaned and examined at least twice a year-more often if you’ve been diagnosed with a periodontal disease or certain other conditions. While professional dental care is the cornerstone of good oral health, what you do at home the other 363 days a year is just as if not more important than regular dental visits.
So what can you do to ensure good oral hygiene at home?
1. Brush your teeth. Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes a day, twice daily. A manual toothbrush is fine, but many dentists will tell you that an electric toothbrush is even more effective. If you decide to go with an electric toothbrush, choose one that fits your mouth well so you can reach those hard to reach places. Don’t forget to brush your tongue.
2. Floss every day. If you don’t know how to floss effectively, ask your dental hygienist to show you how, or look up flossing instructions on the internet. If mobility problems make holding the floss an issue, you can find inexpensive disposable handled flossing units online or in your local drug store.
3. Consider investing in an oral irrigator. Oral irrigators shoot high-powered jets of water between your teeth and along your gum line, loosening debris your toothbrush might not have reached and washing away plaque and bacteria. If you already have gum disease, or your dentist has told you that you suffer from periodontal pockets, a good oral irrigator can prove invaluable in the fight to slow down or reverse your condition.