Your Mouth and Your Health
<The title of this article may make you think that saying something may influence your health. Your words most likely have an impact on the people around you, but this article has a different focus. This article’s goal is to stress the importance of healthy aging, as well as the importance of a person’s gums and teeth.
What Can Go Wrong?
Fundamentally, two things can go amiss with a person’s jaw. One potential problem is that teeth can become decayed. The second potential problem is this article’s main focus: your gums can become infected. Infection occurs when bacteria live along the teeth and form a sticky material that hardens and forms plaque, which later becomes tartar.
The bacteria can make you sick — a more significant outcome than simple discomfort at the gum infection site. Organs can be affected by resulting disease. A mild infection of the gums is commonly known as gingivitis, and a more severe infection is known as periodontitis. Gingivitis and periodontitis are both associated with diseases of the body, including coronary artery disease and valvular heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and lung infections (bronchitis and pneumonia). The systemic response to infection, called inflammatory response, may result in the development of an infection in distant organ and vessel diseases. Infection increases blood sugar that worsens diabetes control. In addition, infecting bacteria of the gums can be inhaled by the lungs, which can result in lung infections. If periodontitis is not treated, the jaw bone can be eroded, and teeth can be loosened or lost.
Risk Factors for Gum Disease
As always, age is a big risk factor for gum disease. The older we get, the more likely we are to encounter this problem. Diseases like diabetes or immune deficiency also make us vulnerable. Other factors that we can’t control are gender: men are more likely to have gingivitis and female hormonal influences can cause flare-ups. Genetics are another factor that we can’t control; approximately 30 percent of people with gingivitis have a family history. Risk factors that we can control include smoking, stress, intimate contact with known infected people, poor oral hygiene, crooked teeth, and defective tooth fillings. These factors that we can control should be eliminated so that our gums can stay healthy.
Signs that a person has gingivitis include bad breath or a bad taste that doesn’t go away. Other signs include swollen gums that are red and painful to touch, gums that bleed often with brushing, and loose and sensitive teeth. Subtle changes in bite or the way the teeth fit together and any change in the fit of partial dentures also are common signs of infection. To determine the presence of infection, radiological studies can be used or a dentist can measure “pockets” created by the infection.
Like some dental procedures, gum health and treatment is relatively inexpensive and painless. Maintaining healthy gums and teeth through daily brushing and flossing are key for helping rid the teeth of bacterial build-up and dangerous plaque. A routine trip to the dentist for “professional” cleaning at least annually is also required. If gingivitis occurs, a dentist can treat it. Or, a dental specialist called a Periodontist can perform “deep cleaning” to scrape away plaque and tartar below the gum line, which may require local anesthetic to avoid pain. In some cases, antibiotics may be used. If deep cleaning doesn’t correct the problem, more extensive dental surgical procedures may be performed.
Various methods can be used to maintain a healthy mouth. Ultimately, the rest of the body can be spared from diseases and infection. The bottom line is that good oral hygiene and regular dental visits is another important strategy for healthy aging.
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What is the proper technique for teeth brushing?
Because every mouth is different, there is more than one technique of brushing that has proven to be effective. Deciding which technique is most appropriate for you depends largely on your teeth position and gum condition. Consult your physician and/or dentist to determine which brushing technique is most appropriate for your mouth.
Generally, most dentists recommend a circular technique for brushing. This includes brushing only a small group of teeth at a time - gradually covering the entire mouth. The importance of maintaining a circular or elliptical motion is emphasized as using a back and forth motion may cause the following:
- a receded gum surface
- an exposed and tender root surface
- a wearing down of the gum line
Instead, dentists recommend the following method:
- Place the toothbrush beside your teeth at a 45-degree angle.
- Gently brush teeth only a small group of teeth at a time (in a circular or elliptical motion) until the entire mouth is covered.
- Brush the outside of the teeth, inside of the teeth, the chewing surfaces, and in between each tooth.
- Gently brush the tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.
- Repeat steps one through four at least twice daily, especially after meals and snacks.