Some people think of oral health only as an afterthought. They assume it's mostly a matter of keeping their teeth looking nice when there's actually much more to it than that. People with good oral health do have beautiful smiles. Still, they also have fewer issues with tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and the many secondary problems these conditions can cause, including more generalized physical health conditions.

The Importance of Good Hygiene for Oral Health
The term dental hygiene refers to more than just brushing and flossing every day. Instead, it comprises all of the habits and practices most conducive to maintaining the health of a person's teeth and gums. That should always include regular visits to the dentist for exams and routine cleanings. Following these tips is the best way to maintain good oral hygiene practices at home.

Brush for at least two minutes twice a day.

  • Floss every day to remove plaque from between teeth.
  • Use mouthwash as recommended by the dentist.
  • Avoid smoking or using smokeless tobacco, which can increase the risk of developing gum disease and oral cancer.
  • Eat a healthy diet high in vitamins A and C and low in refined sugar to prevent gum disease.
  • Never skip routine visits to the dentist.

Problems Associated With Poor Oral Hygiene

Ignoring oral health can lead to all kinds of other problems. People who must maintain good oral hygiene habits at home and schedule regular dentist visits are likelier to develop gum disease and infections. Those infections don't just increase the risk of tooth loss; they can also affect other major organs.

Mouth infections can cause a condition called bacterial endocarditis. When people develop this condition, their heart or heart valves become inflamed due to infection with bacteria introduced through the mouth. The damage done to the heart tissue can be irreversible.

Gum disease and tooth loss can also lead to major digestive problems, both directly and indirectly. Missing teeth make it more difficult to chew food adequately, but that's not the only problem. Chemical processes in the mouth are essential for beginning the digestive process, and disrupting them can lead to the development of irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders.

People at High Risk of Oral Health Issues

Everyone should follow good oral hygiene practices. However, some populations are more prone to the development of gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral health conditions. Underlying problems that predispose people to the development of oral health issues include:
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Oral human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Alcohol use disorder
Having one or more of these conditions doesn't mean someone is destined to develop periodontal disease and lose all of their teeth. Instead of feeling resigned to their fate, patients struggling with these underlying conditions should speak with their dentists about steps they can take to mitigate risk.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Anyone worried about oral hygiene and dental health should schedule an appointment with their dentist. Dentists and hygienists are happy to offer helpful tips for providing better at-home oral health care. They can also perform screenings for oral cancer and gum disease, which have better prognoses when caught early.