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Oral Health

You don’t have to brush your teeth – just the ones you want to keep. -Unknown

Oral health is essential to general health and quality of life.  It is a state of being free from mouth infections, tooth decay and tooth loss, gum disease, mouth and throat cancers.

The most common oral diseases are cavities of the teeth, gum disease (periodontal disease) oral cancer, infections of and injuries to the mouth.

Teeth are living tissue.  The pulp that makes up the center of each tooth contains blood vessels that nourish the tooth, along with nerves that sense heat, cold, pressure and pain.  A tough durable substance called dentin surrounds the pulp, and a hard material called enamel covers the dentin.  Healthy gum tissue fits snugly around each tooth and the roots reach deep into a socket in the jaw bone.

Although tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body, acids formed during the break down of sugar (Carbohydrate) in food can erode the enamel and cause tooth decay.  Failing to brush and floss your teeth every day leads to tooth decay and gum disease.  In gum disease pockets are formed between the gums and teeth, where infections material can collect.  Left untreated, gum disease ultimately leads to tooth loss.

Tooth Decay (Dental Cavities) and Tooth loss

Worldwide, 60-90% of children and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities, often leading to pain and discomfort.  Dental cavities and gum disease (periodontal) are major causes of tooth loss.  Complete loss of natural teeth is widespread in older people of developing countries.  With proper dental care, most of those teeth could have been saved.

Prevention of Dental Cavities And Tooth Loss

  • Begin to clean your children teeth as soon as they come out.
  • Never let your baby sleep with a bottle of formula, milk or sweet drink.
  • Teach your older children tooth hygiene.
  • Use fluoridated drinking water, salt, milk and toothpaste. Long-term exposure to an optimal level of fluoride results in fewer dental cavities in both children and adults.

Gum Disease

Your mouth is full of bacteria.  These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, form a sticky, colorless substance called plaque on teeth.  Brushing and flossing help to eliminate plaque.  Plaque that is not removed can hardened and form bacteria-harboring tartar that brushing cannot clean away.  Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.

The longer the plaque and tartar stay on the teeth, the more harmful they become.  The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis).  The gums become red and swollen, and can bleed easily.  If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, you probably have gingivitis.  Gingivitis can be prevented by flossing and regular dental checkup and cleanings. But when it goes untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis (which is inflammation around the teeth).  Periodontitis causes the gums to pull away from the teeth and form pockets of infectious material.  If not treated, gums, teeth and bones can be destroyed.  The teeth eventually become loose and fall out or need to be removed.

Health Effects of Gum Disease

Researchers have uncovered some possible health effects of gum disease that go beyond the mouth.  Here are some possible connections:

  • Heart Disease And Stroke:

A number of studies have suggested that people with gum disease are at increased risk for heart disease and stroke.  There are possible links through the activation of inflammation from gum disease that could help to damage arteries.

  • Poor Blood Sugar Control In Diabetes

Gum disease in diabetic people leads to poor blood sugar control.

Risk Factors for Gum Disease

  • Smoking – is one of the most important risk factor for gum disease.
  • Use of smokeless tobacco

Using snuff and chewing tobacco products can increase the risk of developing gum disease.

  • Diabetes: The more poorly controlled the diabetes, the more severe the gum disease.
  • Hormonal changes: A women’s changing hormone levels during puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause can make the gums more sensitive and more susceptible to gingivitis.

How to keep your teeth and gums healthy?

  • Brush your teeth thoroughly for at least two minutes, at least twice a day, and every day.
  • Floss your teeth every day. For best results, floss before you brush your teeth, at least once a day, before bed time.
  • Cut back on sweets, candy. Eat a healthy diet with enough calcium.
  • See your dentist at least twice a year for checkup and cleaning.
  • Don’t smoke, and don’t use smokeless tobacco products of any kind.

Oral Cancer (Mouth Caner)

Most oral cancers begin in the tongue and in the floor of the mouth. Anyone can get mouth cancer, but the risk is higher, if you are over 40, use tobacco products of any kind. (Chewing tobacco, pan-masala etc.), smoke cigarette, bidi or pipes, or use alcohol and have history of head and neck cancer. 

Symptoms of oral cancer

  • White or red patches in the mouth.
  • A mouth sore that won’t heal.
  • Bleeding in your mouth.
  • Loose teeth.
  • Problems or pain with swallowing
  • A lump in your neck.
  • An earache.

Early diagnosis is important for treatment or cure.  If in doubt see your dentist or doctor.  The oral cancer treatment may include surgery, radiation and / or chemotherapy.  The five-year survival rate with proper treatment is only 50%.  The treatments are disfiguring.

It is important that you take care of your teeth and gums.  Brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily.  See your dentist 1-2 times a year and get your teeth and gum cleaned.  Don’t use tobacco products in any form.  There are some evidence to suggest that gum disease may be contributing to heart disease and stroke.  Oral hygiene is beneficial to your overall health.  Don’t neglect it.  It will also give you a bright smile.


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