With the COVID-19 pandemic ushering in an era when using face masks are considered essential, oral hygiene should not be left out as many have found out that their breath stinks under their mask. The oral cavity like any other part of the body should be adequately cared for whether covered or not. Do you have any worries about developing bad breath while using the face mask? Having your oral hygiene in check can help. Oral hygiene includes all the processes for keeping the mouth clean and healthy as taking good care of the oral cavity will prevent most of the dental problems and reduce cost of treatment. Making the choice of certain lifestyle poses greater challenge for oral health and this article intends to raise awareness on the need to maintain good oral hygiene.
The oral cavity (mouth) is a very important part of the human body and is involved in essential processes like nutrition, communication as well as respiration in certain instances. The normal development of the mouth and all the structures within it helps it to carry out its diverse functions. The mouth is a portal through which substances from the exterior get to the interior, maintaining it in good health contributes to overall wellbeing, for instance, it is considered by many to be the ‘safest way for food to reach the stomach’. As a result of the fact that the mouth constantly communicates with the exterior, it is said to house a lot of bacteria and microorganisms. At birth, the oral cavity does not have any bacteria but subsequently it gets colonised with bacteria within the first few days of life.
Keeping good oral hygiene can help prevent most of the dental problems like:
Halitosis: – Also called bad breath. Mostly results when food particles left in the mouth are broken down by bacteria which usually produce sulphur compounds. It causes anxiety and could be a source of embarrassment for some people who are affected thereby could lead to psychological stress. Some other causes of halitosis include tobacco consumption, dry mouth, postnasal drip, fasting/low carbohydrate diet (which produces ketones), cancers, liver failure, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, eating certain foods like onions and garlic, amongst others. An effective treatment for halitosis is regular brushing, flossing and hydration.
Dental caries: – Also referred to as tooth decay. It is a breakdown of teeth by acids made by bacteria. It is associated with pain, difficulty in eating (chewing) and sometimes swelling of the face on the affected side. The acids from the bacteria dissolve the hard tissues of the teeth. Dental caries has been associated with the intake of foods with high sugar content (fermentable carbohydrates such as sucrose, fructose and glucose).
Gingivitis: – This is a form of gum disease that occurs when plaque (a sticky yellow film consisting of a wide range of bacteria which attaches to the tooth surface and can be visible around the gum line) builds up on the teeth and causes the inflammation of surrounding gum tissues. It is a disease that causes irritation, redness and swelling of the gum around the base of the teeth (gingiva). The symptoms are red and puffy gums that bleed easily when the affected person brushes their teeth.
Periodontitis: – This condition is characterised by the inflammation of the gums and the supporting structures of the teeth. It is caused by inflammation triggered by bacteria and could result in serious complications. It is usually referred to as a more serious form of gingivitis. In severe cases, the gums can pull away from the tooth, bone may be lost or the tooth may loosen and/or fall out.
Some tips to help you maintain good oral hygiene include:-
• Regular tooth brushing: – Brushing the teeth at least twice a day is recommended. Regular gentle tooth brushing remains a key method in maintaining good oral hygiene and preventing oral diseases. It helps to reduce/prevent plaque build-up. Brushing of the teeth for at least two minutes per session can produce effective results. Fluoride containing toothpaste is preferable because it helps to prevent dental caries. Brushing your tongue is also advised as food usually lodges at the back of the tongue. If in doubt of the best toothpaste or mouth cleaning agents to use it is safe to discuss with your primary care provider or a dentist for professional advice.
• Flossing: – This helps to remove the plaque not taken away by tooth brushing, especially those between the teeth. When used properly, it removes food particles and plaque between the teeth and below the gums. The material used is the dental floss. Different types of floss like waxed, unwaxed or Teflon floss may be used based on individual preference. Flossing can be a part of a person’s daily routine.
• Tongue scrapping: – This will help remove numerous bacteria found on the tongue that could cause bad breath and other dental problems. Specialised equipment called tongue cleaners which are designed to remove accumulated substances from the tongue surface can be used.
• Other interdental cleaning methods like the use of inter dental brushes, single tufted brushes.
• Adequate nutrition:- Eating foods that help to keep the teeth and gums healthy is encouraged. For example, diet rich calcium, phosphorus, fibre, vitamin C amongst others should be chosen over high sugar diet that can cause tooth decay and other dental problems. Raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese are some examples. Excessive intake of sugars should also be avoided.
• Rinsing regularly: – Daily rinses are beneficial and should be preferably alcohol-free (because alcohol can cause dryness of the mouth and its linings). Rinsing is very essential especially after consuming foods/drinks high in sugar, sticky snacks (for example, potato crisps, carbonated drinks, fruit juice, vinegar (which may have high acid content and cause demineralisation of the enamel). Gargling with a mouth rinse just before bed at night can prevent bacterial growth.
• Avoid chewing on hard objects or ice which can harm the teeth.
• Regular dental check-up:- There is need for regular visit to one’s primary care provider or specialist (Dentist) for routine oral hygiene check and oral health discussions. This is required and should be done by both children and adults following recommended schedules. Regular checks (at least once a year) can also detect any abnormalities present with follow-up treatment to avoid complications.
Actions towards maintaining good oral hygiene is the first step in preventing untoward effects of dental problems as well as overall wellbeing and should be a priority. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to restrict the amount of sugar intake amongst children and help them maintain good oral health.
Health quote of the week:
“A bad mood is like bad breath. Both are wrong to inflict onto others”
– Dennis Prager.