Dental health and oral hygiene can impact other body systems.
Oral Hygiene Techniques for Dental Health
Oral hygiene is a regular habit that is easy enough to practice for preventive care. A regular brushing routine is important to maintain dental health. It helps prevent plaque (which causes decay), freshens the breath, and can stave off gingivitis and other mouth diseases. If an electric toothbrush isn’t being used, it is important to brush manually in a circular motion. Both sides of the teeth, as well as the gum line, need to be brushed. The brush should be held at a 45-degree angle. The tongue and roof of the mouth should also be brushed.1 A tongue scraper may help. There are also water picks and other devices that can thoroughly clean the mouth. Besides brushing at least twice a day, flossing is also critical. It is the “prime defense against periodontal disease” and it can help prevent decay and cavities. The floss should be worked in a “C shape around each tooth”. There are many varieties of floss: unwaxed/ waxed, flavored, and different thicknesses, including floss tape.2 Some people would rather use disposable floss picks or sword-shaped bristle floss. The latter can be especially helpful for those with braces.
A diet rich in calcium, and vitamins C and D, is important for dental health. A steady supply of calcium gives the skeleton structure and strength. Milk, green leafy vegetables, fortified orange juice, and supplements are some ways to get calcium. Vitamin D is the sunlight vitamin, and 15 minutes of direct exposure to the sun a day can help the body produce enough. There are also D-fortified milks and supplements. A vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy (bleeding, sore gums). Vitamin C can be found in cruciferous vegetables and citrus fruits, as well as supplements. Dentists recommend fluoride as well. This can be found in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and often in the drinking water. Cutting back on sugar can prevent cavities. Processed foods, complex carbohydrates and starches also contain sugar. Brushing and flossing regularly can help to remove these sugars from the teeth.3 Visiting the dentist twice a year is important so that they can examine the mouth for decay, cysts, and lesions. They can check for oral cancer as well. A professional cleaning will remove tartar buildup.4
Disorders of the Mouth
The mouth can have bacterial, viral, fungal infections, inflammatory problems, trauma, ulcers, or cancer. There may also be jaw problems, such as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD), which can cause pain in the mouth, jaw, and headaches. Chiropractors can be particularly helpful in treating those with head and neck pain, such as the kind from TMJD. Some patients may have bruxism (teeth grinding). Others can have progressive gum disease or tooth loss. Oral cancer can come from smoking, infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV), and excessive alcohol use. Canker sores and herpes are other mouth infections. Some patients will need to wear mouth guards when they sleep or other oral devices to help with their disorders. Allergies, anxiety, depression, stress, and hormones can all impact the health of the mouth. Invasive medical procedures may be necessary (i.e., root canals, cancer treatment).5 Some mouth problems can be signs of other systemic issues. Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can cause mouth ulcers and tooth problems.6 Heart disease can be predicted by gum disease, missing teeth, and cavities. Certain bacteria in the mouth in some patients may indicate that they are “more likely to have atherosclerosis in the carotid artery in the neck”.7
Learn more about how to treat jaw problems.