Often, as children, we were encouraged and compelled by our parents to ensure that we brushed and flossed our teeth twice a day. Although many of us back then might not have understood the insistence of our parents to inculcate these habits into us, as we got older we started to appreciate the good oral hygiene habits that we were exposed to.
1. Why is oral hygiene necessary?
Our oral and maxillofacial (jaws and face) components consist of 32 adult teeth and the upper and lower gums. When referring to oral health and oral hygiene, it is generally understood to reflect the condition of the teeth and gums.
The oral and maxillofacial cavity forms the starting point of our digestive system. Without the process of chewing of the jaws and the teeth, we would not be able to eat or digest the food that is necessary for our sustenance. In order to ensure that the rest of our body maintains its functions using the nutrition we derive from food, we first need to ensure that our teeth and gums are pain free and well maintained. Poorly managed oral hygiene can lead to conditions such as cavities, loss of teeth and gum inflammation that hinder our ability to eat healthy food.
The hindrance to eating however only forms the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the detrimental effects of poor oral hygiene. Some of the most common oral diseases and conditions are:
* Dental cavities: According to the WHO, 60% – 90% of school children and a 100% of adults worldwide have cavities that become a source of pain and discomfort.
* Periodontal disease: More commonly known as gum disease, is a condition in which the gums become red and inflamed in response to a bacterial infection and spread to the bone.
* Tooth loss: The direct effects of long term cavities and gum disease is the loss of teeth, especially true in older adults.
* Oral cancer: Regular consumption of alcohol, smoking and tobacco use, along with sub-standard oral hygiene can serve as a cause of oral cancer.
The aforementioned dental disorders are a direct result of poor oral hygiene. However, the consequences of bad oral hygiene can extend to other parts of the body as well. Not taking care of teeth and gums can result in the bacteria entering the blood stream and subsequently causing more serious illnesses such as:
* Cardiovascular disease
* Respiratory infections
* Diabetic complications
Without the practice of good oral hygiene, it is very difficult to prevent and combat the onset of any of the above conditions. It is highly recommended to visit a dentist to get their advice on how to improve your oral health on experiencing any discomfort within the mouth or jaw area.
2. What are the causes of dental disorders?
The risk factors for oral and maxillofacial disorders include an unhealthy diet, tobacco use and excess alcohol consumption. Within the context of the GCC and UAE, tobacco use stands out as a pertinent factor
in the cause of various teeth and gum disorders. According to the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, approximately 25% to 30% of adult males in the UAE smoked tobacco.
Smoking tobacco is one of the most widespread causes for the development of periodontal disease. Studies have shown that smoking tobacco products can hasten the spread and severity of gum disease. Furthermore it was shown that it was more difficult to treat periodontal and other disorders in patients who smoked. However, the greatest health threat that smokers face is, oral cancer. Smokers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer, studies have shown that nearly 90% of patients diagnosed with mouth or throat cancer had a history of smoking tobacco.
Apart from direct causes, the prevalence of oral diseases also depend on geographical region, availability and accessibility of oral health services and social determinants of oral health.
3. What does good oral hygiene entail?
Many individuals, despite having healthy diets and not partaking in the consumption of liquor or tobacco could still fall victim to bad oral hygiene. Dental professionals undertake a holistic view that combines good oral care with a healthy lifestyle. Good oral hygiene can be practiced using the following steps:
* Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste: Dentists recommend brushing twice daily; before breakfast and after dinner. This is to ensure that the bacteria and plaque that accumulate during the day and while sleeping, are gotten rid of immediately.
* Floss daily: Many people tend to skip this vital step. Flossing helps remove tiny food particles, plaque and bacteria that have lodged themselves in areas of the teeth that a brush cannot reach.
* Eat a healthy diet: The consumption of fast food and fizzy drinks can lead to wear of the enamel resulting in sensitivity eventually resulting in cavities and tooth pain. Increased exposure to confectionaries, unhealthy dietary practices and improper oral hygiene is a major cause of dental caries in children. Professional fluoride application and use of pit and fissure sealants help preventing tooth decay in children.
* Replace your toothbrush: The effectiveness of a toothbrush starts to wane after 3 to 4 months. Dentists recommend replacing a toothbrush once you notice a slight fade in the color of the bristles.
* Avoid tobacco use: Tobacco is one of the leading causes of dental and maxillofacial disorders in the UAE. Tobacco in any form increases the risk of gum disease. A smoker is twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers.
* Diabetes: High blood glucose can worsen gum problems. Diabetes is a chronic condition causing various other health conditions. Keeping good control over blood glucose levels in vital for oral health.
Practicing proper dental hygiene is extremely important in more ways than one. Encourage your family to practice good oral hygiene by brushing twice every day, flossing daily and using a mouth wash to kill bacteria. These practices, coupled with regular visits to a dentist can go a long way in preventing the onset of serious dental and other health disorders. In order to create a greater awareness about oral health and hygiene, countries of the GCC have established the GCC Oral Health Unified Week that takes place every year in the last week of March.
From the 26th to the 31st of March, countries of the GCC host a variety of activities and events aimed at promoting good oral hygiene in order to commemorate the GCC Oral Health Unified week. With the systemic rise in oral and dental disorders, health ministers of the various GCC countries decided to adopt the resolution of conduction a dental awareness campaign for one week, every year. This year as well the GCC Oral Health Unified Week will reach out to both local and expatriate residents in order to raise awareness about good oral hygiene and talk about ways to prevent dental disorders.
Dr. Nisha Velayudhan
Aster Clinic, Al Nahda