It is well documented that general well-being begins with the mouth. A healthy mouth promotes overall well-being and health. Bacteria are important components within our mouth. Most of these bacteria are harmless or even beneficial in the right amounts. Proper oral hygiene is paramount in oral health. This includes tooth brushing, flossing, and mouth rinsing with either prescribed mouth rinses or over-the-counter mouthwashes. Without proper oral hygiene, however, the level of bacteria inside your mouth can become out of balance and lead to oral health problems such as gingivitis, leading to periodontal disease or tooth decay (cavities).
Maintaining a routine of good oral health practiced daily is important not only for your teeth and gums but for your overall health as well. Poor oral health and inflammation from gingivitis can contribute to the development of other diseases throughout your body including plaque buildup in the arteries, an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Women of childbearing age with dental infections have an increased risk of preterm labor or a low-birth-weight baby.
Just as oral health affects your overall health, the reverse is also true. Your general health can play a large role in your oral health. Diabetes, osteoporosis and other illnesses can contribute to an increase in gum disease and tooth loss. People who have fillings, dental bridges, dental implants and any type of removable denture are at a higher risk for losing teeth and requiring dental treatment. Saliva is an important component in maintaining a healthy level of bacteria in the mouth, and many medications can reduce saliva production. Antidepressants, decongestants and antihistamines are just a few examples. Most medications can cause mild to severe dry mouth conditions. Not only is dry mouth uncomfortable, but the lack of saliva can contribute to an increase in dental decay (cavities) and many other dental and oral health issues.
Seniors are especially prone to dental infections, especially those with limited dexterity. It is important for healthcare givers to intervene twice daily and assist with oral care.
A good dental routine is important for oral health.
- Dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss at least twice daily ensuring you reach the back teeth as well as front ones.
- Follow a healthy diet and try to reduce your intake of sugars.
- Get regular dental cleanings and checkups.
- Get a new toothbrush when the old one starts to look worn or at least every three months.
- Don’t smoke or use smokeless tobacco.
By maintaining proper oral health, you not only will have a healthy smile but you’ll be contributing to a healthy body as well.
Children, adolescents, and young and mature adults all benefit from doing their part in good oral care.
By Daniel Feit, DMD
Dr. Daniel Feit, a specialist in prosthodontics, practices restorative dentistry with Diane Jonas, DMD, at 19 Franklin Street, Tenafly, New Jersey. He can be reached at 201-569-4535.