“There was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently.” -William Shakespeare
Run your tongue over your teeth. Are they smooth and slimy, or do they have a film on them with a rough texture? Do you remember the last time you cleaned those things? Habits aside, do you know why it’s important that you keep these pearly whites clean (apart from saving serious money when visiting your dentist)?
Before researching for this article, I thought brushing and flossing one’s teeth was only to keep cavities at bay. As it turns out, there’s much more than cavities to worry about. Gum disease (gingivitis), Alzheimer’s disease and even heart disease can become problems. Since these are more interesting and less known, we’ll focus on them.
Remember that rough layer of plaque on your teeth? Well, it’s mouth bacteria. The bacteria are constantly forming a sticky film over and between your teeth. This can be removed by brushing and flossing. If you don’t clean the film off regularly, it becomes hard and turns into tartar. “The longer both plaque and tartar sit on your teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis, where the gums become red, swollen and bleed easily.” Gingivitis can be reversed, so if these symptoms sound familiar then brush your teeth regularly to fix the problem. If the swelling and bleeding don’t go away, then you need to see your dentist. If Gingivitis isn’t treated, then it can become gum disease. (Health)
If you’ve been thinking about writing a horror story but lacked subject matter, then gum disease is for you. Its real name is “periodontitis.” Diseased gums can create little pockets of infections when they pull away from the teeth—and that’s not even the scary part. The human immune system will naturally fight the spreading bacteria in the diseased mouth, which breaks down the bone and connective tissue that are keeping the teeth in place. (Health) Is that nightmarish or what? It gets worse. Almost half of America’s adults suffer from gum disease, says research done 10 years ago.
Hopefully we’ve invested in some good habits and toothpaste since then.
The horror story isn’t over, though. Remember how I promised you heart disease?
“A study in 2008 found that bleeding gums from poor dental hygiene could increase the risk of heart disease. Bacteria from the mouth are able to enter the bloodstream and stick to platelets. Blood clots can form and interrupt the flow of blood to the heart, thus triggering a heart attack. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.” (Health)
I know this is terrifying. But, there’s good news during all of this.
All you must do to give your teeth and health the best life they deserve is brush your teeth, floss, and use mouthwash twice daily. Tada, that’s it! Dentists recommend brushing for 2 minutes (4 minutes daily). This timing is important because most people only brush for 30-45 seconds. If you increase that to 2 minutes, studies show you’ll have a 26% improvement in plaque removal compared to brushing for only 45 seconds. (Gallagher et al.)
It’s also a great idea to chew sugar-free gum after meals and snacks to help protect your teeth in between brushings (this does not replace brushing one’s teeth, so no cheating). “Chewing stimulates the salivary glands to increase their flow rate by up to 10 times during the first few minutes of chewing, and the flavors in sugar-free gum also increase the quantity of saliva in the mouth. This helps clean out food particles and neutralizes biofilm acids on the teeth.” (Health)
Take a minute now to add mouthwash, floss, or new toothbrushes to your grocery list. Your teeth and health will thank you!
The toothbrush doesn’t remove six months of tartar 30 minutes before your dental appointment! - Unknown
Gallagher, Andrew, et al. The Effect of Brushing Time and Dentifrice on Dental Plaque ... - Adha. 2009, https://jdh.adha.org/content/jdenthyg/83/3/111.full.pdf.
Health, By: UF. “Poor Dental Hygiene Can Lead to Serious Health Problems.” UF Health, University of Florida Health, 26 Oct. 2016, https://ufhealth.org/blog/poor-dental-hygiene-can-lead-serious-health-problems.
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