Every dentist’s worst nightmare – a patient with horrible oral hygiene practices. Scarily enough, dental health isn’t completely localized to a patient’s mouth; research has shown that there’s a real correlation between a person’s dental health and their overall physical and mental well being. Left untreated, bad oral health can result in persistent pain, bleeding gums and in extreme cases, decay to the point of tooth loss. In professional settings, poor oral hygiene can be crippling to one’s social standing – after all, who wants to sit at lunch with someone sporting stained teeth and bad breath?
The reality is that many bad oral hygiene practices can be easily corrected with a little bit of knowledge and making a few changes to one’s daily routine. The steps that need to be taken are often small lifestyle corrections that don’t require much effort or expense, so we actually find it very troubling when people blatantly ignore them.
Here are some of the most common bad oral hygiene practices and how to avoid them.
Did you know that less than 30% of the population bothers to floss? Flossing is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of dental health. The benefits of flossing are many-fold; flossing can remove plaque and bacteria too difficult for the bristles of your toothbrush to reach. Especially after a meal of starchy or sticky food, flossing can remove all the debris that’s been trapped in between your teeth.
What happens when you don’t floss? Food that gets trapped there starts to slowly decompose and rot, giving your breath an unpleasant and sometimes nasty odour. Not the best way to boost your popularity at dinner parties.
We all already know that smoking is horrible for our teeth. It makes our breath stink of tobacco and it causes a distinctly ugly yellowish hue to develop on our enamel. But smoking has even more insidious, hidden ways that it can harm your oral health. Research has shown that smoking adversely affects one’s nervous system, making it difficult to heal lesions and other tissue damage which is common in our mouth.
Smoking also lends itself as a risk factor to a variety of nasty gum diseases. Especially after invasive gum surgeries (e.g. wisdom teeth removal), all dentists generally advise against smoking for at least two weeks as it can slow down healing and introduce harmful pathogens to your already vulnerable gums.
Eating too much sugary or starchy food
As cliched as it sounds, it’s true – eating too many sugary foods will cause cavities! Research continues to show that exposing your teeth to sugary foods or drinks can result in enamel deterioration and cavity formation. Candies and sodas aren’t your only culprits, however – many processed foods that you might buy at your local convenience store or supermarket have hidden added sugar that can be just as harmful!
Yes, innocuous-looking foods like crackers, chips or even pasta can linger in the mouth and break down into simple sugars. This gets fed on by bacteria which converts the sugar into acid which, needless to say, is very harmful to the enamel.
Not drinking enough water
While many people find saliva gross (I can see their point), it is important to note that saliva is actually 99% water! Not drinking enough water might result in a condition known as dry mouth, where there just isn’t enough saliva being produced to keep your mouth appropriately moist. Not only does this result in a stale breath, but having a dry mouth means there is less fluid to wash bacteria and plaque away, which leads to tooth decay.
There is no excuse for not drinking enough water! Carry a flask around with you at all times and make an effort to keep it topped up. Most dentists recommend that a person drink at least 2 litres of water a day and at least have a drink once every thirty minutes.
Not visiting the dentist regularly
Visit the dentist every 6 months, please! There is a multitude of benefits that come from visiting a dentist regularly. At every routine examination, a hygienist will do a cleaning of the teeth which will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and gums. Your dentist’s trained eye will also be able to tell you whether or not you’ve developed cavities, gum disease or even signs of mouth cancer.
Even patients who follow good oral health practices are still at the risk of developing certain oral health conditions. Don’t take the risk! Prevention is always better than cure, so make sure to schedule a routine checkup at least once every 6 months.