Good dental hygiene can have many positive effects in your daily life. It not only strengthens your teeth and gums, but it can have positive effects on your overall health and wellbeing as well. Conversely, bad dental hygiene can have detrimental effects on your health. Specifically, good oral hygiene can prevent cavities (dental caries), gingivitis, periodontitis, and bad breath (halitosis).

Cavities are also described as tooth decay. This is the most common disease throughout the world an is an infectious disease that damages the structures of teeth. Cavities can lead to pain, tooth loss, infection, and in some cases, even death.

Cavities are caused by bacteria that produce acid which in turn eats away at the enamel of the teeth. Specifically, the acidity that is produced in the mouth lowers the pH balance to the point at which demineralization occurs faster than mineralization. The result is tooth decay. Tooth decay is irreversible. Once a tooth is decayed, it cannot be restored except through dental procedures. The best preventative measure is good dental hygiene.

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums around the teeth. It is often the result of plaque and tartar buildup due to improper cleaning of the teeth or by injury to the gums from vigorous brushing or flossing. When bacterial plaque accumulates in the spaces between the gums and the teeth, the bacteria produce chemicals and toxins that cause inflammation of the gums around the teeth.

Symptoms of gingivitis can include swollen gums, mouth sores, bright red or purple gums, shiny gums, bleeding gums (even with gentle brushing), itchy gums, and receding gumlines. Gingivitis is usually reversible, but the best way to prevent it is to brush your teeth gently and thoroughly on a daily basis and to keep your teeth flossed.

Periodontitis or Pyorrhea is the result of untreated gingivitis. If gingivitis inflammation is left unattended for years, it can cause deep pockets between the teeth and gums and result in loss of bone around the teeth. Since the bone in the jaws holds the teeth into the jaws, the loss of bone can cause teeth to become loose and eventually fall out or need to be extracted due to acute infection.

Symptoms may include:

o occasional redness or bleeding of gums while brushing teeth, using dental floss or biting into hard food like apples

o occasional gum swellings that recur

o bad breath or halitosis

o persistent bad taste in the mouth

o recession of gums resulting in apparent lengthening of teeth. (However, note that this may also be caused by heavy handed brushing or using a hard bristled tooth brush.)

o pockets between the teeth and the gums (Pockets are sites where the jaw bone has been destroyed gradually by repeated swellings).

o loose, shaky teeth in later stages

o inflammation of the tonsils and/or throat due to fragments of bone embedded in the tissue

Periodontitis is not reversible but can be controlled with regular cleanings below the gum line. This is best accomplished professionally by a dental hygienist or dentist. This cleaning will disrupt and remove plaque to help prevent further inflammation. Although plaque will continue to grow even after cleanings, it takes approximately 3 months for the pathogenic type of bacteria to grow back into the deep pockets and restart the inflammatory process. Again, the best way to prevent periodontis is to engage yourself in good oral hygiene to begin with.

Halitosis, also known as oral malodor, breath odor, or most commonly bad breath are terms used to describe unpleasant odors exhaled in breathing. Transient bad breath and chronic bad breath are the two most common conditions that affect people. Transient bad breath is a temporary condition caused by things such as stress, hunger, food, smoking or bad oral hygiene. What is known as “morning breath” is an example of transient bad breath. This condition can be easily remedied by brushing or chewing gum.

Chronic bad breath, however, is a more serious and persistent condition. It is usually caused by persistent overpopulation of certain types of oral bacteria and requires specialized treatment.

The previous conditions are all problems that you might face if you engage in poor oral hygiene. Taking care of your teeth and gums can go a long way in helping you be a healthier person.

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