Posts Tagged ‘dental hygiene’

Brushing Up on Dental Hygiene

October 26th, 2020

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 69 percent of Americans ages 35 to 44 have lost at least one of their permanent teeth. The CDC also notes that by age 50, Americans have typically lost an average of 12 teeth, including their wisdom teeth. Further, among adults ages 65 to 74, 26 percent have lost all their teeth.

You don’t have to be one of those statistics. You can keep your teeth – and your smile – throughout your lifetime by maintaining a healthy mouth and practicing good dental care. October is National Dental Hygiene Month, a time to spread the word that odorless breath, strong teeth, and clean gums are all part of good overall oral health.

This month also serves as a perfect opportunity to review a few key strategies for brushing up on your dental hygiene practices. Good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent cavities, gum disease, and other dental disorders. It also helps prevent bad breath. Oral hygiene consists of both personal and professional care.

On the personal side, everybody knows they’re supposed to brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. But do you know the proper brushing technique? To begin, hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle. Aim its bristles at the spot where your teeth meet your gums. Brush gently, using short, back-and-forth strokes across the sides and tops of your teeth. Brush for at least two minutes.

Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and don’t brush too hard because it can harm your gums. Replace your toothbrush every three months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed or irregular. Don’t forget to clean between your teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaning device such as a Waterpik. And use a mouthwash. It can go where brushing and flossing can’t.

Your lifestyle habits can have an impact on your oral health as well. To best maintain a healthy mouth and keep your teeth, adopt a diet that’s tooth-friendly. It should include plenty of nuts, fruits, cheese, chicken, and vegetables. Cheese causes your salivary glands to produce more saliva, which neutralizes the acid. Acid damages your teeth.

For overall better oral health, it’s also recommended that you stop smoking and limit your intake of soda and alcohol. Tobacco can cause periodontal complications including oral cancer, and soda and alcohol contain phosphorus, which on its own is important for health. But too much phosphorus depletes your body of calcium, and that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Good dental hygiene also has a professional component, which includes seeing your dentist regularly. The standard recommendation is to visit your dentist twice a year for check-ups and cleanings. But your dentist may want to see you more or less often, so talk with your dentist about the frequency that’s best for you.

During a routine dental visit, your dentist or a hygienist will clean your teeth and check for cavities and gum disease. Your dentist will also evaluate your risk for other oral problems and check your mouth, face, and neck for signs of cancer. X-rays of your teeth are generally taken once a year, but your dentist may recommend other procedures to help diagnose a suspected dental condition.

Not only is good dental hygiene key to maintaining a healthy mouth and keeping your teeth for a lifetime, but it’s also important for your body’s overall health. Research study after research study has shown that people who have poor oral health have higher rates of cardiovascular problems such as heart attack or stroke than people with good oral health.

Several theories about how this happens have been proposed. One suggests that the bacteria that infect the gums and cause gum disease travel through the blood vessels to other areas of the body. There, they cause blood vessel inflammation and damage, and tiny blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes may follow.

Another theory suggests that it’s not the bacteria, but the body’s immune response to it that sets off the vascular damage. A third theory states that there may be no direct connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, but a third factor, such as smoking, is a risk factor for both conditions.

What’s more, gum disease associated with a particular bacterium called porphyromonas gingivalis has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis and pancreatic cancer.

However you look at it, brushing up on your dental hygiene is a good way to go. Make it the focus of this Dental Hygiene Month and always.

Gum Disease: A Health Disaster

January 1st, 2018

We all know the routine: Brush and floss at least twice a day to keep your teeth and gums healthy. By doing this, you can avoid cavities that require extra trips to the dentist and that annoying and uncomfortable drilling to repair. Brushing and flossing are good for your gums, too, and having healthy gums can help you avoid a slew of other problems.

Graphic from

Stages of Gum Disease

That’s because periodontal disease, or gum disease, has been shown in research study after research study to affect the body systemically, beyond the mouth into other areas such as the heart, lungs and blood. It has been linked to an increased risk of a number of heath conditions.

Gum disease has different forms. The mildest is gingivitis, which is generally associated with poor oral health habits. With this form, you might notice your gums becoming red and swollen, and they may bleed easily. Gingivitis can be reversed with professional treatment and better oral hygiene.

Periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease, can develop if gingivitis is left untreated. In this case, plaque that is left on the teeth spreads and grows beneath the gum line. Bacteria in the plaque produce toxins that stimulate a chronic inflammatory response.

As part of this response, the body reacts by essentially turning on itself, and eventually the tissues that support the teeth break down and are destroyed. What happens is the gums start to separate from the teeth and form pockets around the teeth that can become infected. If the pockets become large over time, the teeth can loosen and have to be pulled.

One disorder linked to periodontal disease is diabetes. Research shows people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease. Gum disease, in turn, can increase blood glucose levels and the risk for diabetes complications. It goes both ways, though. Having gum disease makes it more difficult to control blood glucose.

There are other disorders associated with gum disease, including osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw, which may lead to tooth loss and decreased bone density. Research has found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be inhaled into the lungs and cause respiratory illnesses.

An increased risk of various cancers has also been associated with periodontal disease. For example, research found that men were 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and 30 percent more likely to develop blood cancers. There was an increased risk for some cancers in women as well. The risk of esophageal cancer increases in both men and women.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. Some have shown that the bacteria involved in developing periodontitis can make its way into the bloodstream and cause an elevation of a certain substance in the blood. This substance, C-reactive protein, is a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. That inflammation increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

There’s more. A recent Chinese study revealed that aggressively treating gum disease may help lower blood pressure in people at high risk for high blood pressure, such as those who have elevated blood pressure levels. This study’s results were reported in November at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting.

Another recent study, this one conducted in the United Kingdom, discovered that gum disease could raise the risk of dementia by as much as 70 percent. These findings were presented this past August.

The facts are pretty clear. Gum disease can lead to a host of health disorders. This point underscores the importance of keeping your teeth and gums healthy through regular dental checkups and good oral hygiene practices.

Your parents were right when they bugged you to brush your teeth when you were a kid. I’m bugging you now. Brush and floss, and follow your dentist’s advice for routine care. It’s not just for your teeth; it’s for total body health!

Battling Your Breath

November 17th, 2015

When I was in high school, the guy I dated referred to it as “ferocious reindeer breath.” When we got a little older, it was “beer breath.” In both cases, it referred to the scent of our breath after a night of eating pizza and wings (loaded with garlic, of course) or partying with a gang of friends. Fortunately, once the food and drink were out of our systems, we started to smell a bit sweeter.

Millions of Americans struggle with bad breath, many occasionally, some chronically. Have you ever wondered what really causes it and what it takes to get rid of it for good?

As expected, food is the number one source of bad mouth odors. Everyone knows about garlic, but onions and many spicy foods, like those made with curry, are guilty as well. Certain drinks like coffee can also have an effect on breath. The thing with food, though, is that when it’s out of your digestive system, it loses its power. Your breath can bounce back.

Mouth odors from poor dental hygiene take a little more effort to eliminate. If you don’t brush and floss as instructed by your dentist, you could be leaving behind bits of food that rot in your mouth and promote the growth of bacteria. A build-up of bacteria causes inflammation of the tissues and that, in turn, causes a less-than-pleasant aroma.

Getting serious with your oral hygiene is critical. Brush twice a day and brush after you eat. Remember to brush your tongue, too. Floss every day to remove those bits of food between your teeth. And don’t get too attached to your toothbrush; replace it every two to three months. Take extra care in cleaning if you’ve got dentures or an oral appliance like braces or a bridge. See your dentist at least twice a year for a check-up and thorough cleaning.

There are some things you can do to keep ferocious reindeer breath at bay. Keep these tips from the American Dental Association in mind:

  • As mentioned, practice good oral hygiene.
  • Keep an eye on what you eat. Watch the garlic and the spicy foods, but don’t forget they aren’t the only things that can linger on your breath.
  • Drink lots of water. It helps wash away some of those left over bits of food that can feed the bacteria in your mouth.
  • Toss the tobacco. Smoking and chewing tobacco causes bad breath and stains your teeth and can change the way food tastes.
  • Try mouthwash. It’s not a cure, just a cover up to temporarily sweeten your breath, but it helps for a little while. The same is true for gum and mints.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask your significant other or a close friend about your breath. If you get the “thumbs-down,” then follow these tips, and make being close to you an even more pleasant experience!





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