Oral health is a reflection of our overall health

Oral health is a reflection of our overall health

On March 20 we celebrated the International Oral Health Day'. According to the dentist Richard Kohsiek, who's a board member of the Royal Dutch Dental Association, we should think more often about the consequences of oral health as "Oral health is a reflection of our overall health".

What encompasses good oral health?

"In the mouth there are good and bad bacteria. As long as there is a prober balance between good and bad mouth flora, there is not much wrong. Things only go out of control when the bad bacteria outgrow the good bacteria. "

"Plaque is the white part that we see grow on our teeth is formed by a combination of bacteria and food remnants. Becasue these calcify it grows into tartar on locations where the tooth brush can't reach".

Why is tartar bad for oral health?

"Because tartar can continue to grow underneath the gum, where it can cause inflammation as well as decay of the teeth. Because of the tartar , gum will come apart from the teeth and molars, and a gap is created through which harmful bacteria can enter the bloodstream. "

Is that dangerous?

"This can indeed be dangerous. Once they enter the blood stream, harmful bacteria may perhaps attach themselves to a heart valve and cause inflammation. From research we know how periodontal disease, a case of severa inflamed gums, can increase the risk for cardiovascular problems by 50%. This works both ways: when we treat periodontal disease, cardiovascular health will improve!"What other links can be found between periodontal disease and health? "Another link is the one between periodontal disease and diabetes. People who suffer from diabetes, run a two-to-three-fold risk to suffer also from periodontal disease. This is probably because an instable blood sugar level leads to a lowered immune health, which makes them less resistant against infections, such as periodontal disease.
Vice versa, inflammations in the body, among which this periodontal disease in the mouth can destabilize blood sugar levels! "

"That's not everything, we have reason to believe there is a relationship between poor oral health and rheumatoid arthritis as well as dementia and depression. There is ongoing research about this relationship. "

Supposedly there is also a relationship between inflamed gums and premature birth. How come?

"Pregnant women have a heightened risk to contract gingivitis (inflamed gums), which is probably caused by the altered and raise hormonal levels. Women with unnaturally high hormonal levels run a greater risk for premature birth and babies with a too low birth weights. We recommend to pregnant women to brush their teeth with more care than you usually do and go to the dentist right away when you have inflamed gums. "
[our comment: there is a common folk wisdom, "each pregnancy will cost you a tooth']

How can we keep our mouth healthy?

"By brushing your teeth at least twice a day and use a toothpick daily. As well as by not eating too much, but especially not too often. Every time we put food into our mouth, it is a carb fest for the bacteria in our mouth that start digesting food in the mouth already. When these mouth bacteria digest sugars and starches , they will excrete acids that will increase acidity in the mouth.
The more acids in your mouth, the more teeth will get cavities. "
There will be balance in the mouth because our saliva will neutralize the acids. However, this takes time. Stop eating or drinking after a meal and do not eat anything for at least two to three hours. And if you MUST eat cookies, eat 2 or 3 at once rather than spread them over the day, so your mouth will only suffer from the acids once. Remember how smoking is also harmful for oral health."

Why is smoking bad for oral health?

"Smokers will contract gingivitis (inflamed gums) more easily than non-smokers. The reason for this is because smokers will have restricted blood flow in all of their veins, among which the veins leading to their gums. Because of lesser blood flow, there is less resistance against harmful bacteria in the dental plaque on their teeth. "

"Very often, smokers won't notice to have bleeding gums, because their gums don't bleed as much due to the reduced blood flow.
So you get a combined whammy of increased risk for inflamed gums as well as less signals to alert you to it. "

The mouth as a compass to indicate health

An unhealthy mouth can be a compass to show the way to what's wrong in the rest of the body, is the opinion of Fred Rozema, who is a professor of Oral Health in the Amsterdam Center for Dental Health (ACTA) and UMC (Amsterdam University of Medicine)
"You can spot some diseases in the mouth. When someone has ulcers in his mouth, this can be a side-effect of various medicins, but also a reflection of diabetes. It is important that dentists who notice this in a patient, will them them to go to their house physician."

What tooth brush should we use?

"I recommend getting an electric tooth brush because it will put the samne pressure on all teeth. Furthermore, most electric tooth brushes have a timer. To remove all dental plaque you need two minutes. The average Dutch citizen barely reaches one minute!"

[our comment: you can also use a seprate timer. In our experience, electric tooth brushes need to be charged ever more often and can be nonfunctional on the moments you need to brush your teeth. You can also just use a regular (soft) tooth brush and a timer on your phone!]

What about tooth paste?

"Tooth paste is not meant to remove dental plaque but to bring fluoride into the mouth and protect the tooth enamel. Always choose a tooth paste with fluoride and don't rinse your mouth afterwards. Just spit it out, especially before you go to bed it is best to still keep some of the tooth paste inside your mouth so it can do its job while you are asleep."

[our comment: the last word hasn't been spoken yet about fluoride, see one of our other blog articles "Fluoride, should you avoid it?"]

Dental plaque and tongue plaque

Food scraps don't just stick around in between our teeth, but can also stick to the tongue, where it becomes 'tongue plaque'. In quite a few cases, people who pay attention to brushing their teeth and removing dental plaque, can still have smelly breath (halitosis) because the bad breath is caused by the plaque on their teeth.
It's not so crazy to invest in a so-called tong-scraper to also remove 'tongue plaque'.

In our neck of the woods it is not very common to scrape our tongue, but it is quite common in China and India where they also put more emphasis on diagnosing health problems by means of how the tongue looks.

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