What is Oral Hygiene?


How oral hygiene affects overall health


Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping your mouth and teeth clean in order to prevent dental problems like cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and bad breath. By brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist regularly, you keep plaque and tartar (the enemies of dental health) from building up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that grows on the surfaces of your teeth. Once plaque hardens, it becomes tartar, which is brown or pale yellow and is found between, in front of, behind, and on top of the teeth, and also along the gum line.

Plaque and tartar are so dangerous to oral health because they cause tooth decay, which is the most common global disease. But how exactly do these barely noticeable biofilms create so much damage? It all has to do with bacteria. Bacteria in the plaque and tartar feed on the sugars in the food you eat. As the bacteria feed, they make acids that eat away at the tissue of your teeth and gums, which can lead to a hole in your tooth called a cavity. Although you’d think most people would try to avoid getting cavities, they’re very common. Worldwide, 60-90 percent of school children and nearly 100 percent of adults have dental cavities. About 78 percent of Americans have had at least one cavity by age 17. Needless to say, most people end up getting at least one cavity in their lifetime.

However, it’s not necessarily the cavity itself that should leave you stressed beyond measure. It’s leaving the cavity untreated for a long period of time that should have you worried. Untreated cavities not only cause pain and infection, they can also lead to gum disease and tooth loss. Severe gum disease causes at least one-third of adult tooth loss, which might explain why about 30 percent of people, globally, aged 65-74 have no natural teeth. If you don’t want to be part of that percentage when you’re older, understanding the importance of dental care now is critical.

How Does it Affect Your Overall Health?

When you have poor oral hygiene (you’re not regularly flossing, brushing, or visiting the dentist), bacteria will build up and not only create cavities, but it will also make your gums prone to infection. If the gums become infected, they will become inflamed unless the infection is brought under control.

Inflammation and the chemicals it releases devour the gums and the bone structure holding your teeth in place—this is known as periodontitis (severe gum disease). Unfortunately, 80 percent of the U.S. population has some form of periodontal gum disease, which, as you’ll find out, is not great for your overall health. Take a look at the following bullet points to discover the link between gum disease and these serious health issues.

  • Diabetes
    • Periodontitis has been found to have a strong connection to diabetes because inflammation in the mouth seems to weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar.
    • People with diabetes already have a hard time controlling blood sugar because of their lack of insulin.
    • Periodontitis ruins the body’s ability to use insulin.
    • High blood sugar makes it much easier for infection to grow (infections like gum disease).
  • Heart disease
    • Although it’s not fully understood as to why, there’s a strong connection between gum disease and heart disease.
    • 91 percent of patients with heart disease have periodontitis, compared to 66 percent of people with no heart disease.
    • One theory is that bacteria from gum disease can enter your bloodstream and travel to the heart arteries and cause them to harden.
    • The hardening of the arteries can cause plaque to develop on the inner walls of arteries, which can block blood flow and ultimately cause a heart attack.
    • The inner lining of the heart can also become infected and inflamed causing a condition known as endocarditis.
  • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Bacteria from gum disease can also potentially enter the brain through nerve channels in the head or through the bloodstream.
    • This passing along of bacteria and infection may lead to the development of dementia.

As if these diseases weren’t enough, there have also been links between gum disease and osteoporosis, lung conditions, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis. At this point, it should be pretty obvious that how you treat your mouth directly affects your body’s health. If you have bad oral hygiene habits, you’re posing serious risks to your overall health.

How Can You Strengthen Your Oral Hygiene in Order to Protect Your Overall Health?

If you’re wondering what you can do to keep your dental health and hygiene in tip-top shape and how to make your gums healthy, you’re already taking a step in the right direction. Here is a numbered list you can follow to ensure you’re doing everything it takes to prevent not only serious dental problems, but also serious health problems:

  1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
    1. Always use a soft bristle tooth rush.
    2. Brush for at least two minutes every time.
  2. Floss at least once every day.
  3. Schedule regular dental checkups at least once every six months.
    1. A dental hygienist will clean the plaque and tartar from your teeth.
    2. You’ll get x-rays to check for cavities.
    3. The dentist will check your mouth for gum disease, oral cancer, and any other signs of oral health problems.
  4. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed or don’t look clean.
  5. Simply eat healthy.
    1. Limit the amount of sugary foods you eat and try to stay away from between-meal snacks.
    2. This will discourage the bacteria in your mouth from producing acid that will decay your teeth and gums.

The fact that over 80 percent of cavities occur inside fissures in the teeth where brushing cannot reach leftover food emphasizes the importance of going to the dentist. No matter how good you are at brushing and flossing, there will be pieces of food you won’t be able to get, which means that plaque and tartar buildup is inevitable.

You need a dental hygienist’s help to scrape off the areas you can’t reach. You simply cannot have good oral hygiene if you’re not regularly visiting the dentist. That’s why EMI Health is dedicated to providing dental insurance to anyone who doesn’t have it and is looking for affordable plans. With the help of EMI Health, you can have hope that your smile and heart will be healthy for years to come.

Contact EMI Health to Improve Your Oral Health Through Our Dental Insurance Plans

Whether you’re looking for group health plans or Utah individual dental plans, EMI Health is here to help. We care about your health, which means we care about whether you’re visiting the dentist regularly. Contact us today to get started on finding the right dental plan for you by calling 1-800-662-5851 or by visiting www.emihealth.com.