Good Oral Hygiene
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that professional dental cleanings and exams be performed biannually, beginning at one year of age, or within 6 months of the first tooth coming in. This is an excellent time for adults to be reminded of the importance of brushing and flossing at least twice daily. Children, on the other hand, have the opportunity from a young age of becoming comfortable with dental health care providers, and learning how to care for their teeth. It is recommended, however, that children be supervised during their oral care until at least the age of 8. In addition to oral hygiene, lifestyle choices are also important for your dental health. Eating a well balanced diet, which includes adequate amounts of calcium and fluoride is important to promote healthy teeth. Refraining from sugary foods and drinks will help to prevent cavities. The ultimate goal of a healthy smile is the prevention of inflammation of gums and tooth decay.
Health Risks Associated with Poor Dental Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene sets up an ideal environment for bacterial growth. At the very least, cavities, infections, and abscesses will need to be treated with antibiotics, and most likely with painful and expensive dental procedures. Gingivitis, which is reversible gum disease, periodontal disease (more severe gum disease), and dental decay can all lead to infection and tooth loss. In fact, it is estimated that 25% of all people aged 60 and older have lost all of their teeth. However, the ramifications of gum disease can be much more dangerous, resulting in local, regional, and even systemic disease.
Periodontal disease, which is characterized by a slowly progressing disease with periods of rapid exacerbation, is defined as inflammation of the gums, along with loss of the supportive structures (roots, bone, and connective tissue) of the teeth. Signs of periodontal disease include inflamed and bleeding gums, loose teeth, bone loss, and eventually tooth loss. This is a progressive disease that not only results in oral infections, but even more serious infections of nearby structures, as well as distant organ systems.
Adequate nutrition is essential to maintain your health, however numerous adults become at risk of malnourishment because of poor dentition. After tooth loss, the ideal treatment to maintain jaw health and an adequate ability to chew is often the placement of implants, which can be costly. Additionally, successful treatment with implants relies on healthy bone in the jaw. Unfortunately, the alternative of dentures is not always as easy to live with. Poorly fitting dentures may lead to difficulty eating, which leads to malnutrition and bone loss, which leads to poorer fitting dentures. It becomes a vicious cycle, and one that can often be prevented by good oral hygiene throughout life.
Untreated oral infections can spread to deeper spaces of the jaw, the skull, the neck, the orbit of the eye, and even the brain. The closest structure to your teeth is your jawbone. Infection of the bone, or osteomyelitis, will cause increased weakening of the bone, which will lead to further dental problems. Because there are so many important structures and organs adjacent to the mouth, infections can easily invade deeper cavities within the skull and neck. Infections of the sinuses can be the result of dental infections of the upper jaw (maxilla). Because of the close proximity of the brain, infections and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis and meningitis) are a real threat. There also exists a risk of pharyngeal (back of the throat) infections, which can lead to aspiration and lung infections.
Heart Valves and Artificial Joints
Serious dental infections may lead to septicemia, or an infection of the blood. Because your blood then circulates throughout the rest of your body, infected blood increases the risk of infection in distant structures. Two of the most susceptible structures to this type of infection are the heart and artificial joints. Infection of the heart results in endocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart. This can lead to permanent damage to either natural heart valves or artificial valves. In fact, any artificial tissue, such as those that are placed with knee and hip replacements are at risk of infection, inflammation, and permanent damage.
As stated, gum and tooth infections have the potential to invade your bloodstream and cause inflammation of the heart. In fact, one of the factors that cause plaque buildup inside arteries is inflammation. The result is arteriosclerosis, which narrows the blood vessels, increasing the risk of both heart attack and stroke.
Poor Self Esteem
While heart attacks, stroke,s and meningitis all seem like menacing effects of dental disease, mental health plays an important role in overall health. Self esteem, or lack there of, has the potential of contributing to depression. Maintaining an aesthetically pleasing smile can make a huge difference in the way you view yourself, and in helping you maintain a positive outlook toward life.
If you have any further questions regarding oral hygiene, maintaining good oral health, or about any other dental services, please call Dedicated Dental, at (702) 566-5509, or request an appointment online. Helping you maintain good oral health is our number one goal.