September is National Oral Health Month! When it comes to taking care of your teeth, prevention is always better than a cure. In this article, we’ll learn about why taking care of your teeth is so important, and what you should be doing every day to keep your smile healthy and bright.
Future-proof your smile
When it comes to good oral hygiene, what you do today determines how healthy your teeth and gums will be tomorrow. Good oral health now can prevent a range of health complications in the future. Here’s what you need to know:
What is plaque?
Plaque is a thin layer of bacteria that is constantly developing on our teeth. When you eat or drink, the bacteria in plaque produce acid which can break down the enamel on your teeth, leading to cavities or tooth decay. If left too long, plaque can harden into tartar, which will need to be professionally removed. Plaque can also cause an infection of the gums and tissues supporting the teeth called gum disease.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease refers to an infection, soreness or swelling of the gum tissue. There are two primary forms of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Gingivitis can develop when plaque and food particles get caught in the small space between the gum and the teeth called the sulcus. When this build up sets in below the gum line, the tissue can become infected and cause gingivitis, with symptoms including redness, soreness and bleeding of the gums.
If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a serious gum infection called periodontal disease. Periodontal disease affects the tissues supporting the teeth, and can move down into the jawbone, compromising tooth support and leading to tooth loss.
What are cavities?
When the acid produced by plaque bacteria eats into the tooth enamel’s sub-surface, small holes or openings can develop in the tooth itself. Bacteria enter the tooth through these openings and cause an infection which can painfully expose or destroy the nerves within the tooth. Left untreated, this can form an abscess which needs to be removed with a root canal surgery or tooth extraction.
Oral health may impact overall health
An increasing body of research suggests that oral health may have a direct impact on overall health. Studies have linked periodontal disease to health conditions such as endocarditis (inflammation of the inner lining of the heart), cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, an increased risk of pancreatic cancer and more.
Good oral hygiene: How to protect your teeth and gums
Good oral hygiene is the only way to prevent cavities and gum disease. Here’s what you should be doing every day to future-proof your smile:
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Oral Health: A window to your overall health - https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475
Gum disease and the connection to heart disease - https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/gum-disease-and-the-connection-to-heart-disease
Gingivitis (gum disease) overview - https://www.healthline.com/health/gingivitis#symptoms
What are cavities? - https://www.colgate.com/en-za/oral-health/cavities/what-are-cavities
Dental Plaque - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10953-plaque