Brushing your teeth isn’t the most enjoyable activity, but it’s an important one for maintaining good health and hygiene! The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice per day, and most experts will tell you it’s best to see your dentist at least one time during the year. You’re even supposed to floss every day!
Dentist offices plaster their walls with gingivitis posters, but Americans don’t seem to be paying attention. While gingivitis is essentially a milder version of gum disease (periodontitis), it’s a very common problem. In fact, almost half of the people in the United States suffer from it.
Gingivitis symptoms include swollen or puffy gums, dusky red or dark red gums, gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss, bad breath, receding gums, and tender gums. If you spot gingivitis early, treatment is relatively pain-free. Your dentist can devise a plan, but most likely it will only require a deep, professional clean if detected early.
That’s right. A long-term study at a retirement community found that adults who reported not brushing their teeth daily were 22 percent to 65 percent more likely to develop dementia. Those statistics came with a caveat–“it’s possible that people with better oral hygiene have better health habits in general”–but a few minutes more in the bathroom might significantly lower your risk of developing this memory loss disease.
While most researchers cannot say that there is a definite link between poor oral health and heart disease, “The mouth can be a good warning signpost,” said Ann Bolger, M.D. More research still needs to be done, but some studies suggest there is a relationship between bacteria in the mouth and artery-clogging plaque.
Diabetes has always been a risk factor for gum disease, but some research indicated poor oral hygiene itself be a factor is causing diabetes because it may lead to insulin resistance.
Yikes! Gum and other oral diseases are often linked to HPV, an infection that accounts for almost 80 percent of all oral cancers. Scientists know that smoking will increase your susceptibility to cancers, but studies suggest that poor dental hygiene is an independent risk factor for cancer.
How to have good oral hygiene
If you brush and floss just like your dentist tells you, you are leagues ahead of your fellow Americans in terms of maintaining proper oral care. But another thing to keep in mind is that you should replace your toothbrush every four months or when the bristles start to fray.
Some other helpful tips? Use mouth wash, opt for sugar-free gum, and cut down on acidic soft drinks and juices. Still have questions? Call your dentist!