ORAL HEALTH BASICS
Clean Teeth Lead To Better Oral Health
Good oral health is critical for good health and longevity. Controlling plaque is the key to good oral health, as shown below:
Microbes such as bacteria and yeast are part of normal healthy human physiology. There are an estimated 10 times more bacteria than human cells in the human body. They make up 1 – 3% of total body mass. As essential as they are for normal functioning, a problem occurs when :
- They grow beyond their usual number OR
- They grow in the wrong place.
Biofilm is a colony of bacteria multiplying together in a sticky slime composed of extra-cellular DNA, proteins, polysaccharides and their own secretions. Biofilms are responsible for up to 80% of all infections in the human body, e.g., urinary infections, ear infections, endocarditis and so on. The human body usually combats unhealthy biofilm through the process of shedding cells such as skin.
Plaque (Oral Biofilm)
However, teeth don’t shed and therefore have no protection against biofilm. In fact, they act like magnets for bacteria and form a biofilm called plaque. Within 48 hours, plaque hardens and in about 10 days it becomes tartar, which is extremely difficult to remove.
Dental plaque can lead to caries (tooth decay/cavities). It also leads to gingivitis, which can be characterized by:
- Tender/swollen gums which may be bright red or purple in color.
- Bleeding gums or bleeding after brushing and/or flossing
- Bad breath (halitosis)
According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ),
"Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease and affects 50% to 90% of adults worldwide."
According to the American Academy of Periodontology:
“Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.”
According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 47% of all adults residing in the US suffer from some form of periodontitis.
Most disturbingly, it has been suggested that there is a link between periodontal disease and systemic disease, including heart disease.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure. If you can control plaque at the outset, you can prevent the vicious cascade of diseases. Having cleaner teeth can make a crucial difference in your oral health.