Healthy mouth equals healthy body

A HEALTHY mouth is a properly cared for mouth.  The teeth, gums, lips, cheeks, palate, tongue and other structures in the mouth are disease-free.  There is no impairment of function and no discomfort is felt whatsoever.  Confidence that the breath is fresh and a feeling of “well-being” is likewise experienced.  A healthy mouth contributes to a healthy body and the campaign to maintain a healthy lifestyle should include dental care and oral health maintenance.

Factors affecting oral health

Certain risk factors affect oral health.  Local factors in the mouth, predominantly the dental plaque or dental biofilm can affect oral health.  Dental plaque/biofilm is the cause of the two most common diseases of the teeth and gums namely: dental caries and periodontal disease.  Saliva and its components may also influence the condition of the mouth. Secondarily, certain factors and conditions, when present, may lead to more dental plaque/biofilm to become retained, leading to adverse outcomes.  These include presence of dental prostheses (dentures), orthodontic appliances, defective tooth restorations and tooth fillings, crowded teeth which make toothbrushing and tooth cleaning difficult, and other mouth conditions like presence of oral sores/ulcers which bring discomfort when performing tooth cleaning procedures.

Adverse lifestyle and undesirable habits also contribute to unhealthy mouth conditions: smoking, betel nut chewing, “clenching of teeth” during stressful situations, bruxism (“night grinding”).  The use of certain drugs and medications like cyclosporine, dilantin, some diuretics and calcium channel blockers, etc. may also lead to hyperplastic changes in the gums or gingival enlargements, making toothbrushing difficult as well.  And while it is considered that oral health affects the general body health, the impact of certain systematic or body conditions on the mouth cannot also be overlooked.

Hormonal changes and metabolic dysfunctions are seen to affect oral structures and tissues particularly the gums and teeth.  Proper nutrition affects salivary function and effective control of oral infections.

Prevention is the key

Oral infections like Periodontitis (gum disease) are caused by bacteria that attach to the tooth surfaces.  Accumulation of these bacterial deposits leads to inflammation of the associated gum tissues (Gingivitis).  If left untreated, Gingivitis may lead to Periodontitis.  It has been demonstrated that improving gingival health and oral hygiene is associated with a reduction in the incidence of periodontal disease.

Effective control of periodontal diseases and the prevention of disease recurrence has also been shown to be largely dependent on maintaining dental plaque/biofilm levels that are compatible with gingival health.  The use of chemical agents aimed at preventing dental plauque/biofilm had long been an accepted component of periodontal therapy.

Triclosan, an anti-microbial agent belonging to the Phenol group of chemical agents used in medicated products like soaps and deodorants, had been formulated into toothpastes and mouthrinses.  Studies have shown that triclosan/co-polymer toothpastes provide greater gingivitis benefits.

Proper oral care

A healthy mouth ensures a healthy body.  It is therefore important that proper oral care is practiced.  Effective home care should involve brushing correctly using fluoride and triclosan/co-polymer containing toothpastes, use of fluoride and antibacterial mouthrinses where approrpirate, flossing regularly or practice interdental cleaning and elimination of unhealthy lifestyle habits.

The dentists assumes an important role in the efforts to ensure that healthy mouth conditions are maintained and that oral infections do not contribute to systematic disease among their patients.

Oral health education should be coupled with medical health recommendations and healthy lifestyle programs.  Smoking cessation programs, nutrition and diet counseling and other behavior modification programs should be included in dental treatment regimens.  Greater collaboration with medical colleagues in the total patient care and management are likewise advocated.

The assessment of individual patient treatment needs and prescription of the appropriate oral care products to use at home are considered part of the standards of care in dental practice.


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