The importance of oral health

By: Jane Langille

Your smile may light up a room, but did you know that a healthy mouth matters for your overall health?

Anyone can get gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums caused by a buildup of plaque. But left untreated, it can lead to periodontal disease, a serious and chronic bacterial infection of the gums and jawbone that can lead to tooth loss.

Research shows that people with periodontal disease have twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack and pregnant women with the disease have a 7 times greater risk for having a pre-term or low-weight baby, according to the Canadian Periodontal Association. Other health conditions linked with poor oral health care are diabetes and respiratory illness in older adults.

Oral Health

As part of your healthy lifestyle, follow these steps for good oral care.

1. See your dentist regularly. In addition to spotting cavities early so they can be filled before they become bigger problems, dentists are trained to check for signs of oral cancers that often go unnoticed by patients. They will inspect your gums, tongue, lips and cheeks to look for suspicious changes.

 2. Have professional cleanings twice a year. Your dental hygienist checks for gum disease and gives your teeth a complete scaling to remove plaque buildup. They will let you know if there are areas you are not cleaning well yourself and teach you how to do a better job.

3. Floss, brush and rinse at least twice a day. Did you know that if you don’t floss, you are missing one-third of your tooth surfaces? Check out this Canadian Academy of Periodontology video to see how to floss correctly. When you brush your teeth, don’t forget to brush your tongue too, to remove plaque and bacteria. Switch to an electric toothbrush If you aren’t using one already, to remove more plaque than a manual toothbrush. Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash to kill plaque-forming bacteria on other mouth surfaces you can’t reach by flossing and brushing alone.
 
4. Avoid all tobacco products. Ask your doctor about advice on quitting smoking cigarettes or using any tobacco products. Smoking can lead to missing teeth, infected gums, oral cancer and heart disease. Chewing tobacco and other products can cause mouth, tongue and lip cancer.

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