We all know the importance of good oral health when it comes to preventing cavities and gum disease. But did you know that your oral hygiene has a direct impact on all the other systems in your body? Your mouth is the entryway to your respiratory and digestive tracts.
The Effects of Oral Bacteria on Your body
Poor oral care can lead to gum disease and chronic inflammation. When oral bacteria gets into the rest of your body, it can play a role in certain conditions, including, but not limited to:
If bacteria caused by gum disease enter your bloodstream, it produces a protein that clots the blood, preventing the heart from getting much-needed oxygen and nutrients. Inflammation of the blood vessels could even lead to a stroke.
When bacteria move into your lungs, it can result in respiratory diseases like pneumonia.
According to a recent study, women between the ages of 54 and 86 with a history of gum disease were 14% more likely to get cancer.
Since gum disease triggers the production of chemicals that induce labor, it can increase the chances of a premature birth.
DOS AND DON’TS FOR GOOD ORAL HEALTH
Even if you think you’re taking good care of your teeth, you may have developed some bad habits like brushing too hard, not brushing long enough or using the wrong toothpaste. Here are the best practices for maintaining proper oral care.
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily. Even if you’re tired at night, don’t skip it, because that is when you have the most food debris stuck in your teeth and the least amount of saliva to wash it away — a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Brush for two minutes using a soft-bristled brush or an electric toothbrush — not too aggressively, though, to avoid causing gum recession and enamel abrasion.
- Replace your toothbrush or brush head every three months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed. (If you notice fraying after only one or two months, you’re probably using too much pressure.)
- Use a fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association stamp on it to ensure it has been properly tested. Other products may cause sensitivity or damage.
- Floss once a day (or more) to remove the food debris between your teeth — there is only an eight-to-12-hour window before the debris hardens into plaque and tartar. Regular floss is much more effective than floss picks that may spread bacteria to another area.
- Follow brushing and flossing with mouthwash to remove remaining food particles and help control plaque and gingivitis.
- Limit your intake of sugar and carbohydrates — they attract bacteria. Trade sugary sodas, juices and energy drinks for water or unsweetened tea. And instead of starchy foods like bread and pasta, opt for fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Don’t smoke. Besides harming your immune system, it can lead to gum disease and make it harder for you to heal after a dental procedure.
- Don’t wait until you’re in pain to go to the dentist, or what could have been a simple fix could develop into a more serious problem. Get routine dental cleanings every six months, or as recommended.
ORAL HYGIENE AND LIFE EXPECTANCY
Besides keeping you healthy, good oral hygiene can actually increase your chances of living a longer life. Research has shown that people with 20 teeth or more by the age of 70 have a much higher life expectancy than those with fewer than 20 teeth. And since good oral health affects your entire body, it can increase your quality of life for as long as you live.