Have you ever wondered how cavities are created? It begins with the bad bacteria in your mouth. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth to some degree – some good, some bad. But if your mouth is not regularly cleaned, those bad bacteria make plaque.
Then the plaque works with sugars and starches that you eat, and together they create acid. If this acid isn’t cleaned away, it begins to erode your tooth enamel. The enamel is your teeth’s body guard against tooth decay. If that protection is destroyed, your teeth are defenseless against the acid that causes decay.
People of any age, from an infant to the elderly, are vulnerable to tooth decay if their teeth aren’t cleaned and cared for properly. And an embarrassing smile or a mouth full of fillings is not the only the problem you could have because poor oral hygiene.
If bacteria are allowed to accumulate in your mouth like garbage in a dumpster, it can find its way to other vital organs like lungs, heart, and even your brain – making those areas candidates for infection and ailments like heart disease, or irreversible harm like brain damage. Yes, and in some rare cases, even death.
When your body experiences an infection it ramps up inflammation to fight it. If that infection is allowed to live on, the inflammation and the chemicals it produces will gnaw away at your gums and bone. Inflammation can also cause your blood vessels to inflame. The inflammation in your blood vessels restricts blood flow - to your heart, your brain – which could lead to a heart attack or stroke, and even dementia.
Many studies have shown that illnesses like heart disease, endocarditis, and Alzheimer’s are linked to poor oral health, if not caused by it. And not only can it make you susceptible to other ailments, it can also affect current health conditions. Sicknesses such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases lower your body’s ability to fight other infections. With your immune system already stressed, it’s not as strong as it needs to be to fight bacteria in your mouth.
So, would you be more inclined to brush and floss regularly and get yourself and your children to the dentist twice a year if you knew a dirty mouth could literally give you a heart attack? Without a healthy mouth, you cannot have a healthy body.
Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy mouth and a happy smile:
- Brush and floss twice a day: The most important part of keeping your teeth strong against decay is twice-daily brushing and flossing.
- Brush for at least two minutes each time: Don’t do a quick sweep, do a thorough two minute scouring. The flossing, as well, needs to be between every crook and crevice. The hardest places to reach for you are the easiest for decay.
- Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly: Bacteria can linger on your tooth brush and hop back in the next time you brush, so rinse your brush thoroughly.
- Never share toothbrushes (even with your spouse): As mentioned above, a poorly rinsed brush can carry bacteria. Sharing a toothbrush means sharing bacteria.
- Keep sugary drinks and desserts to a minimum: Foods high in starch and sugar are bacteria’s dream. No matter how diligent you are about scrubbing and flossing, sugary and starchy foods are catalysts for decay between brushings. You should avoid these foods or eat them in moderation, at the very least.
- Drink sugary liquids through a straw: Drinking through a straw allows teeth and gums to have less contact with the sugary liquid.
- Drink water after eating a meal: Swishing water around your mouth helps to wash away food and sugar.
- Get cavities treated immediately: Untreated cavities will only get worse and that will lead to infection, a root canal, or worse. And you may not always know you have a cavity so regular visits are a must.
- See a dentist every six months: Regular dental visits are another essential ingredient of good oral hygiene. No one likes to go to the dentist. But if you don’t make that little sacrifice every six months, you might find yourself in “the chair” more often than that. Your dentist can do a thorough cleaning and get into cracks and crevices that you haven’t reached.