Listen to Your Mouth. It Has Much to Say!

Oral health is not only important to your appearance and sense of well-being, but also to your overall health. Cavities and gum disease may contribute to many serious conditions, such as diabetes and respiratory disease, and untreated cavities can be painful and lead to serious infections. Poor oral health has been linked to sleeping problems, as well as behavioral and developmental problems in children. It can also affect your ability to chew and digest food properly.

Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums, which may also affect the bone supporting the teeth. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly builds up, thickens and hardens on the teeth. If it is not removed by daily brushing and flossing, this plaque can harden into tartar and may contribute to infections in the gums. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to the loss of teeth and an increased risk of more serious illnesses.

The bacteria in plaque can travel from the mouth to the lungs, causing infection or aggravating existing lung conditions. It creates risks for heart patients, too, as it can travel through the bloodstream and get lodged in narrow arteries, contributing to heart attacks. There also is a link between diabetes and gum disease. People with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease and it can put them at greater risk of diabetic complications.

Often overlooked, flossing our teeth is a critical part of good oral hygiene and should be practiced adjunct to brushing daily. While brushing is critical, flossing does about 40 percent of the work required to remove plaque from the hard-to-reach spaces between our teeth.

Most floss is made of either nylon or Teflon, and both are equally effective. People with larger spaces between their teeth or with gum recession (loss of gum tissue, which exposes the roots of the teeth) tend to get better results with a flat, wide dental tape. If teeth are close together, try thin floss that bills itself as “shred resistant.”

Bridges and braces require more effort to get underneath the restorations or wires and between the teeth. Use a floss threader, which looks like a plastic sewing needle. Or look for a product called Super Floss that has one stiff end to fish the floss through the teeth, followed by a spongy segment and regular floss for cleaning.

Here are some tips for proper flossing:

  • Perfect your flossing technique. Use a piece of floss 15 to 18 inches long. Wind the floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving a one-inch section open for flossing. Place the floss in your mouth and use your index fingers to push the floss between the teeth. Be careful not to push too hard and injure the gums. Floss the top teeth first, then the bottom. Slide it between the teeth, wrap it around each tooth in the shape of a “C,” and polish with an up and down motion. Floss between each tooth as well as behind the back teeth, and use a clean section of floss as needed and take up used floss by winding it around the fingers.
  • Don’t worry about a little blood. Bleeding means the gums are inflamed because plaque has built up and needs to be cleaned away. It is not uncommon, especially for “new” flossers, and shouldn’t deter you. Bleeding after a few days, however, could be a sign of periodontal disease. Talk to your dentist.
  • Get a floss holder. If you lack the hand dexterity to floss, try soft wooden plaque removers, which look similar to toothpicks, or a two-pronged plastic floss holder. Both allow you to clean between teeth with one hand.

Good oral health plays a critical role in helping maintain your overall wellness. See your dentist regularly, watch what you eat, and pay attention to what your mouth is telling you!

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Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!