Brushing Up

Brushing Up

Louise Riddick explains why it’s so important to not skip brushing your teeth after a night out

The importance of oral health

Oral hygiene can have a serious impact on the rest of your health and it is extremely important to look after your teeth and the surrounding tissues. Bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus are found mainly within the oral cavity. Brushing, flossing and the use of mouthwash can help ensure there is not an accumulation of these bacteria. Studies show different bacterial species are found in certain areas within the mouth. For example, different bacterial species can be found on the gums in comparison to the lining on the inside of the cheek.

What are caries?

Dental caries, more commonly known as tooth decay, impacts approximately 2.43 billion people. It is the degradation of the different layers of the tooth such as enamel, dentin and cementum (the hard tissues of the tooth) due to bacterial activity.  Plaque is caused because of the combination of bacteria and saliva within the mouth. Food that is high in sugar and starch is converted into acid by the bacteria, causing tooth decay and then leading to tooth cavities. Sugar is the ‘energy source’ for the bacteria.

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is the inflammatory process in the tissues which surround the teeth due to an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth. Periodontal disease has different stages, ranging from easily treatable gingivitis to severe periodontitis. Continual bacterial infection can lead to degradation of bone structure and tooth loss.  Risk factors that can increase the probability of periodontal disease include smoking, pregnancy and oral contraceptive use. Diseases such as HIV will encourage periodontal disease. Treatment of this disease is through the elimination of microbes and bacteria. If needed, surgical treatment can be used to remove infected tissue to prevent further damage.

Diseases associated with Periodontal Disease

Recently a positive correlation has been seen between periodontal disease and several systemic diseases that impact the rest of the body. These include pneumonia and heart disease. This shows that our oral health may be indicative of overall systemic health. Patients with periodontal disease, due to their compromised immune system, have higher chances of infectious microbes impacting other areas of the body and causing other diseases. Evidence shows that by controlling the bacteria in our mouth, the risk of developing other systemic diseases can be reduced.

Diseases linked to our oral health

Halitosis (bad breath): food particles left in the mouth accumulate bacteria and emit chemicals such as hydrogen sulphide (the same chemical that gives rotten eggs their odour).

Atherosclerosis: accumulation of disease causing bacteria can clog the carotid artery increasing the risk of a stroke.

Heart disease: periodontal bacteria and plaque enter the bloodstream and impact the heart.

Respiratory problems: periodontal bacteria travel in the bloodstream and aggravate the respiratory system.

Diabetes: 95% of US adults with diabetes have periodontal disease.

Erectile dysfunction: periodontal bacteria can block blood vessels to the genitalia.

Make sure you care about your caries and have the wisdom to look after your teeth or your oral health could end up being the root to other health problems.

 

 


Section: Science & Tech

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