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Take care of poor oral health

By Dr Anjana Kannankara

Taking good care of your mouth, teeth and gums is a worthy goal in and of itself. Good oral and dental hygiene can help prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease and can help you keep your teeth as you get older. Researchers are also discovering new links that connect poor oral hygiene with health problems.
Dental hygiene isn’t just about teeth. Good oral health can also help prevent a number of diseases. A healthy mouth may help you ward off medical disorders. As the case for good oral hygiene keeps getting stronger after each research in the field, we need to understand and be aware of the importance of oral health and its connection to your overall health.
What is meant by oral hygiene
Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping one’s mouth clean and free of disease and other problems like bad breath by regular brushing of the teeth and cleaning between the teeth.

What mouth can say about health

One might wonder what the health of your mouth have to do with your overall health. Well, there is plenty. A look inside or a swab of saliva can tell your doctor volumes about what’s going on inside your body.
Signs of poor oral health are bleeding and/or painful gums from plaque and tartar build-up, bad breath and loose teeth, among others.
The cause of poor oral hygiene is usually the patient’s failure to maintain good oral hygiene habits, such as regular brushing and flossing of teeth to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth. Some foods – sugars and acidic foods- and habits such as smoking , chewing of betel leaves can also result in poor oral hygiene and dental diseases.
The purpose of oral care should be to keep the lips and mucosa soft, clean, intact and moist. Cleaning the mouth and teeth of food debris and dental plaque should alleviate any discomfort, enhance oral intake and prevent halitosis.
Most people know that though genetics is a main factor, not brushing your teeth daily can lead to cavities, bad breath, sensitive tooth and tooth decay. But recent studies find that poor dental hygiene can also have unexpected health consequences, such as increased risks for Alzheimer’s disease and cardio-vascular problems.
Gingivitis, cavities, oral cancer, dry mouth, and bacteria on the tongue are some of the dental problems resulting from poor dental hygiene that can cause bad breath. Using mouthwash to cover up bad breath when a dental problem is present will only mask the odour and not cure it. Recent studies have even found that an unhealthy mouth could play a crucial role in causing hypertension.
Infections in the body such as periodontal disease can lead to kidney disease. People with gum disease generally have weaker immunesystems and are more likely to aquire infections. Poor oral health is associated with a 75 per cent increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, a study suggests.
Published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal, the study investigated the association between oral health conditions and the risk of a number of gastrointestinal cancers, including liver, colon, rectum and pancreatic cancer.
Models were applied to estimate the relationship between cancer risk and self-reported oral health conditions, such as painful or bleeding gums, mouth ulcers and loose teeth.
Poor oral health has been associated with the risk of several chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, preterm labour and diabetes also, said the study lead author Haydee WT Jordao from Queens University Belfast. According to the researchers, of the 469,628 participants from the UK, 4,069 developed gastrointestinal cancer during the (average) six-year follow up. In 13 per cent of these cases, patients reported poor oral health.

When it becomes life-threatening

Deadly tooth infections are rare, but they aren’t unheard of. In fact, in a study of 61,439 hospitalisations that occurred because of tooth abscesses, 66 patients died as a result of their tooth infection, the Journal of Endontics reports.
Doctors have pointed out that not only can periodontal diseases cause bad breath and tooth loss, but they may contribute to a variety of serious life threatening systemic conditions . When people with gum disease chew or brush their teeth bacteria can enter the blood stream which boosts clotting risk and risk of stroke, says periodontists.
Even when an oral infection doesn’t drain, it could spread to your jaw, head, neck or to your bloodstream which could turn fatal and interfere with the functioning of various systems of the body.
The aim of oral health education is to impart knowledge on the causes of disease and decay of the teeth and periodontium, on the ways and possibilities of disease prevention and adequate treatment; to point out to the necessity of proper nutrition, regular and proper oral hygiene, proper use of fluoride products as well as to the significance of regular check-ups with a dentist.
The foods you choose and how often you eat them can affect your general health and the health of your teeth and gums, too. Food rich in minerals and vitamins must be included in your diet in order for the body’s tissues to resist infection. The presence of too much or too little of any nutrient can have harmful effects, particularly on the mouth and teeth, and may contribute to oral diseases and infection. Calcium, Iron, Vitamins C, D, B2, B3 and B12 can be very beneficial for oral health .
Onion, leafy greens, mushrooms, green tea, peppers and citrus fruits are some teeth-friendly items
For good oral health, one should brush the teeth twice a day regularly, avoid overconsumption of sugary foods, limit intake of soda and alcohol, keep the diet teeth friendly, floss between teeth each day, use a soft- or medium-bristle toothbrush to brush after each meal if possible, use dental hygiene products that contain fluoride, leaving a little fluoride ( not too much) in the mouth while going to bed, avoid tobacco and visit your dentist regularly

(The author is director, TGL
Foundation, and chairperson, CSA)

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