Avoid This Prevalent Health Problem in Just Four Minutes a Day

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Oral Hygiene and Your HealthEvery once in a while I’ll come across an article, report, or study that makes me scratch my head. Maybe the premise is ridiculous; the researchers have conducted a “no-duh” experiment, the outcome of which everybody already knows; or it’s a finding that indicates the public’s general ignorance in being responsible for their own health.

Yesterday, however, I saw an article that said severe periodontitis is the sixth most prevalent health condition in the world. Now, I understand that there are hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people living without access to dentists or resources that allow them to practice good oral hygiene, but this isn’t so much the case in the United States. Yet, shockingly, half of all American adults have some sort of periodontal disease. It might not be severe periodontitis, but it might be gingivitis or gum disease and these people could very well be on their way to it. There’s no excuse for one out of every two Americans to have even one form of gum disease.

Since you were a child, you’ve likely been told to brush your teeth twice a day and floss once. Even though an annual trip to the dentist isn’t cheap, people with health insurance typically have it covered. For those who don’t have coverage, it’s important to think about how much less it costs to go to the dentist than paying to fix a broken mouth after years of neglect.

Gum disease typically hits people in their 30s, 40s, and beyond. It’s what happens when you fail to take adequate care of your teeth. If you don’t brush evenly and at least twice a day, you’re at risk. Gum disease occurs when plaque (made from bacteria, mucus, and food particles) forms a clear layer on your teeth and around your gums. If left unattended, it can cause gingivitis. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, usually causing a little pain, which can be cleared up easily with brushing.

When gingivitis is left untreated, tartar forms, eventually causing periodontitis if a dentist visit is not made. Tartar is basically hardened plaque that can only be removed by the dentist. During periodontitis, inflammation increases around the tooth caused by your body’s attempt to protect it from the inflamed gum line. The tooth begins to separate from the gum line, allowing plaque to spread and get inside. If left unchecked, it can result in lots of pain and the possible destruction of teeth and gums.

If you’ve got bad breath you just can’t seem to kick; have gums that are red, swollen, tender, or bleeding; experience pain when chewing; have loose or sensitive teeth; or notice your gums receding, it’s wise to get to the dentist as soon as possible. The longer you ignore these issues, the more severe they become.

Everybody can find time to brush their teeth at least twice per day. You really have no excuse not to. Just be sure that you remember to get your whole mouth evenly, not just the places you can see. Spend about two minutes going from the back of your mouth to the front, hitting the anterior and interior parts of each tooth. Get your gum line and around the gum, and take a moment to floss, too. Flossing at least once a day, ideally before bed, is a great routine to get into. And please, don’t think swishing mouthwash around will have the same effect. It’s nice for a little bit of bonus hygiene, but it doesn’t come close to the benefits of brushing and flossing; mouthwash is not an alternative.

Let’s reverse the trend of poor oral hygiene in this country. Periodontitis is one of the most common health conditions in the world and it’s really about time we changed that, especially here at home.

Sources for Today’s Article:
International & American Associations for Dental Research, “Severe periodontitis: Sixth most prevalent health condition in the world,” ScienceDaily web site, September 26, 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140926141012.htm.
“Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments,” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research web site, July 31, 2014; http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/topics/gumdiseases/periodontalgumdisease.htm#periodontitis.