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Understanding the Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health: What You Need to Know

As we continue our focus on Oral Health Month by providing you with helpful information on how to protect your dental and oral health, we are happy to invite Certified Dental Assistant (Level II) Nancy Dahdah as our guest contributor!


Oral health is an imperative part of overall health. The majority of people do not connect their mouths to the rest of their bodies. A growing body of evidence links periodontal (gum) disease to serious health conditions such as heart disease, strokes, and respiratory conditions. Diabetic conditions are also closely linked to oral health. Gum disease may exacerbate existing diabetes or increase complications associated with diabetes.


RISKS AND CAUSES

Adults are prone to two types of decay: root decay and decay at the edges of fillings. Cavities commonly occur on the roots of teeth at the gum line in older adults. As we age, our gums recede, exposing the roots of the teeth, which are more susceptible to decay because they are not protected by enamel. Years of brushing too hard and the natural effects of aging can cause gums to recede. A decayed tooth or root is caused by bacteria (plaque), so it should be removed thoroughly every day. A reduction in sugary foods and drinks will also reduce cavities.


GUM DISEASE

Also known as periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases in humans. A buildup of bacteria or plaque on the teeth can, over time, cause the gums to swell and spread to the underlying bone, causing tooth loss. Periodontal disease is characterized by bleeding gums, loose or shifted teeth, bad breath, and gum recession. By brushing and flossing daily and getting professional cleanings, it is important to keep teeth and gums free of plaque.


DRY MOUTH

Dry mouth occurs when there is a reduction in saliva flow. The causes include medications for high blood pressure, heart problems and depression; radiation therapy to the neck and head; Sjogren's syndrome; diabetes and dehydration. A dry mouth can increase decay and periodontal disease. The condition can also affect chewing, speaking, swallowing, and taste. You can relieve dry mouth by drinking water throughout the day, chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless mints, or by using oral lubricants available over the counter. To reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease, regular professional cleanings, a healthy diet, and a diligent home care program are recommended.


TREATMENT

Consult a dental hygienist about changes in your oral health and any oral care concerns. He or she will conduct a comprehensive oral examination and provide you with a preventive care plan tailored to your specific needs. Keeping track of medications and dietary changes will help dental professionals determine the appropriate treatment for your condition.


PREVENTION/MAINTENANCE

Taking care of our oral health is essential for maintaining a healthy smile and overall well-being. Good oral hygiene practices, such as regular brushing and flossing, are the foundation of a healthy mouth. Below, we explore some important strategies and habits that can promote healthy teeth and gums, as well as prevent common oral health issues. So let's dive in and discover how to keep your smile bright and your mouth healthy!


tips on how to take care of your teeth

  • BRUSH ONLY THE TEETH YOU WANT TO KEEP

Brush your natural teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. Using a small circular motion, hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. Gently brush. Be sure to brush both the inside and outside of the top and bottom teeth as well as the chewing surface. Take special care to remove accumulated debris from the teeth that support a partial denture. To tone gum tissue and remove bacteria, it is also important to brush the tongue, gums, and roof of the mouth. An electric toothbrush has a wide handle and may be easier to grasp for a thorough cleaning.


  • FLOSS

Cleaning between teeth should be done once a day. For those who have difficulty flossing traditionally, one-handled flossers are available. To clean larger spaces between teeth or to massage gums, the dental hygienist may recommend other products, such as a rubber tip stimulator, wooden dental picks, or small brushes (proxy or sulcus brushes). If recommended by a dental hygienist, rinse with fluoridated mouthwash to decrease the risk of cavities.


  • DENTAL CLEANINGS

Visit the dentist more often and have your teeth cleaned professionally.


DENTURE CARE

Both full and partial dentures accumulate food and plaque.

  • Brushing your teeth thoroughly will help you remove food debris and reduce odours.

  • Commercial denture cleaning solutions do not replace brushing.

  • Brush your dentures twice a day with warm water and mild soap or denture paste.

  • Brush over a sink partially filled with water and lined with a washcloth to prevent breakage if the denture is accidentally dropped.

  • Avoid using toothpaste or other cleaning products that can scratch, and never use bleach to clean or soak dentures, as it can discolour and weaken them.

  • Soak your dentures in water or a denture cleaning solution when not wearing them or at night.

  • Rinse dentures with warm water after soaking.

  • Denture cleansers may be toxic if swallowed. Avoid gargling with them or swallowing them.

When dentures are properly cared for, they last longer and contribute to a healthy mouth. On average, dentures last between five and seven years. However, as the mouth changes with age, dentures may need to be relined or replaced.


DENTAL IMPLANTS

Replacing missing teeth with dental implants is a popular and successful procedure. The titanium posts fuse directly to the bone and, unlike some procedures, do not damage adjacent teeth. A dental implant is treated like a natural tooth, but it is not as strong, so it is important to brush and floss gently. With the trend toward implants increasing, dental hygienists need to have specialized knowledge to advise clients before, during and after choosing implants.


list of benefits of dental implants


ORAL CANCER SCREENING

Dental professionals regularly screen for oral cancer. However, individuals should check their mouths between appointments and watch for red or white patches, sores that do not heal after a few days, swelling, or changes in colour. Also, check the lips, tongue, gums, palate, the floor of the mouth, and inside the cheeks. Let your dentist know if anything differs.


DENTAL EMERGENCY

Dental Emergencies happen. The Ottawa Dental Society coordinates a dental emergency referral service. Patients should contact the on-call dentist directly if they need an emergency appointment. It is the patient's responsibility to pay for the diagnosis and treatment. Friendly tip: if you have an X-ray done or treatment, ask them to email it to your regular dentist for your files. An on-call dentist is available from 9 am to 9 pm seven days a week. If you have a dental emergency, please call (613) 523-4185.



Thank you, Nancy, for sharing such valuable information! Should you or your senior loved one require more information on oral health, prevention and treatments, please seek the advice of your dental health professional. Keep smiling!


 

"Improving the quality of life for our clients since 1998 while providing peace of mind to their families."

 


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