Bacteria are everywhere. It’s a symbiotic relationship; we need them and they need us. Sometimes that relationship is a battle. When it comes to oral health, battling bacteria is a fight that we cannot afford to lose. Studies show that the bacterial infection, periodontal disease, can affect blood pressure, cause pneumonia, and lead to heart disease and even stroke. Bacteria causes tooth decay, a chronic infection. Tooth decay is the number one reason for children to miss school. How do you control a monster that can multiply faster than the blink of an eye?
First, we need to understand how bacteria works within the mouth. The mouth is bacteria-free at birth. Kisses from loved ones, favorite blankets, toys, and the pacifier introduce bacteria to a moist and stagnant environment. The introduction of sugar and carbohydrates provide food for bacteria to grow and thrive, thus creating a biofilm of debris. Bacteria and sludge slowly cause infection of the gums and decay on teeth. This is how bacteria gets out of control. Now you have a battle on your hands, trying to keep bacteria levels from causing disease.
What if you can control (kill) the bacteria that cause disease?
Oral health, as with all health should start with prevention. If you can get to the cause of the problem, time and money can be saved. Kill the bacteria before they kill you.
Teeth Brushing/Tongue Scraping
Brushing your teeth and scraping your gums is the most natural way to kill the biofilm and bacteria in your mouth. Manually removing bacteria from the tooth requires no chemicals and is perfectly safe. Studies show that flossing alone can add 6.4 years to your life. Flossing daily removes hard-to-see plaque and bacteria from in-between the teeth. Because flossing hits those areas in your mouth that never see the light of day, neglecting to do so can lead to the start of gum disease and cavities. Bacteria loves dark, moist places and will grow exponentially. It is amazing that people will never forget to brush, but will go days without flossing. Brushing the surface of your teeth twice a day with a manual brush can reduce cavities and gum disease by 75 percent! Have you seen the latest in electric and power brushes?
If you think brushing properly with a manual brush is effective, you should see the statistics on the new Oral-B Pro 5000. Studies show that 9 out of 10 power brush users will not go back to an ordinary manual toothbrush. Oral-B has come out with a revolutionary new toothbrush that puts the “smart” in smart brush. The Oral-B power brush with Bluetooth technology links to an App on your smartphone, which tracks the time spent brushing. The power brush has a pressure sensor that communicates with the App, informing you if you are brushing too hard. This can damage your gums and the enamel of your teeth. This App also has the ability to record if you have flossed and brushed your tongue. Remember when you had to guess when the last time you changed your brush was? The Oral-B App alerts you when it’s time to replace the brush head. It also keeps track of daily brushing achievements and reviews your routine with a weekly and monthly summary, storing up to six months of data. You can even earn “Trophies” for following and sticking with your oral hygiene program. It’s similar to using a Fitbit, but for oral hygiene.
Using a tongue scraper removes the debris and biofilm that is stuck to the papilla on your tongue. Most of the bad breath you experience can be the result of not focusing on removing plaque from your tongue. The color of your tongue can actually tell you a lot about the overall health of your mouth. If the area looks discolored, or if you see a buildup of white material at the back, it means that there’s a lot of bacteria in your mouth, which can lead to bad breath. If you don’t have a mirror, you may want to try licking the back of your hand and then smelling the area. If the area smells foul, chances are there is some oral odor that you may need to resolve.
You are what you eat. Eating to protect your teeth is very important. We all know that sugar is poison to both teeth and the body. However, have you heard of the sweetener called Xylitol? This sweetener is made from the bark of birch trees, has a low glycemic index, and is perfectly safe for diabetics. Xylitol cannot be digested by bacteria in the mouth, helping to stop cavities from forming. After being exposed to Xylitol, bad bacteria has a hard time sticking to the surface of teeth. As a result, the amount of plaque decreases and bacteria cannot thrive in the oral cavity.
To strengthen teeth, be sure to eat foods that are rich in calcium and take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. Rich, colorful fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals that are needed to have great oral health. Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and broccoli are high in vitamin A, which is essential for strong tooth enamel and promotes healing in the gum tissue. Green tea is rich in catechins that kill the bacteria leading to plaque formation while preventing gum disease and cavities. Water hydrates the gums and stimulates saliva. Every sip of water bathes the teeth and rinses away bacteria before it can stick to teeth and cause issues.
Mouthwashes and Toothpastes
Toothpaste and mouthwash are not needed to have oral health. In fact, it is a misconception that rinsing and foaming at the mouth kills the bugs. Brushing and flossing are what’s really doing the job. But if you must use mouthwashes, be sure to stay away from those with alcohol. Use rinses with ingredients that can promote healing of the tissue and that help to keep bacteria from sticking to the surface of the teeth. Tooth and Gums Tonic has a balance of herbs and essential oils that kill bacteria and ensure that the gums are strong and healthy. It also does a great job of killing bacteria on the tongue and throat, fighting bad breath. Many toothpastes have heavy abrasives and chemicals that have no business being present in your mouth. Periobiotic Toothpaste by Designs for Health features lactobacillus, which is not found in any other toothpaste. Research shows that this specific strain of lactobacillus competes with unhealthy strains of oral bacteria, aiding the maintenance of healthy teeth and gums. It does not contain fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate, or artificial sweeteners.
Your smile is one of the first things that people notice about you. Daily oral care is required for playing the game of health. Set up a regimen that requires you to be accountable for practicing daily brushing and flossing. Examine your diet and add foods rich in vitamins and minerals to promote healthy gums and teeth. With the right ammunition you can win the battle!
Kareen Wilson, RDH, practices dental hygiene with Dr. Bryan Wilson in our Contemporary General Dentistry office in West Hartford, CT. We specialize in dental excellence in a caring environment. For more information on dental health or to make an appointment, please call (860)-236-8000.