Ocala Medical Journal: Oral Health–What your mouth is trying to tell you

Story by Maritza Manresa

You hear yourself speak all the time, but have you ever wondered what the unspoken messages your mouth is trying to send you actually mean?

Through the years, you have been trained by medical professionals – and the media — to be receptive to signs of trouble coming from anywhere in your body, such as lumps on the breasts, tightness of the chest, sharp pains accompanied by fever, and so forth.  But the one part of the body that is rarely talked about, let alone educated as to possible signs of trouble, is the mouth. The part of your body where all the food – good and not so good for you – it is chewed, swooshed around with saliva and with the help of your tong pushed down your throat and dumped into the stomach for further and ultimate processing.

Not a bad deal, you put good, tasty things in your mouth enjoy its flavor and voilà, you are done. Well not so true. These good tasty things you put in your mouth leave residues in your teeth, gums, and even tong that unless they are tended to, can result in your mouth turning into a waste disposal facility full of germs and bacteria that cause all kinds of problems. Problems such as bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, as well as canker and cold sores. In other words, when you experience any of these symptoms, your mouth is trying to tell you that there are issues that need to be addressed because careless oral hygiene, or lack thereof, can become a bigger issue when it starts affecting other parts of your body.

“Because our mouth is a dark moist environment, bacteria grows more, it’s like the bottom of the garbage can,” said Dr. Tina Chandra, Chandra Smile Designs in Ocala. Bacteria, those slimy, nasty, and gross microscopic critters, like to lodge themselves in the base of your teeth and gums. They find little pockets and crevices and hide there to multiply and if not taken care of, can develop into periodontal disease. The more bacteria you have in your mouth, the more severe the tissue swelling and bone deterioration will be causing bleeding of the gums, teeth deterioration, and the release of foul odors from your mouth.

So, brushing alone will not do the trick. Brushing will take care of some of the bacteria and remove some of the accumulated tarter and plaque from the surface of your teeth.  But what has lodged itself in the crevices of your gums and between your teeth has to be removed by professionals. Dentists have special tools that can get in those small tight pockets and get them clean. Dr. Chandra describes these pockets as being like the space between the fingernail and the finger – the longer the fingernail the longer the crevice and although you know it may be dirty there you just cannot get in there to get it completely clean, and the same holds true in your mouth.

But all this does not mean that because you have all these bacteria floating around in your mouth you are guaranteed to have some awful form of gum decease and end up losing all your teeth. “Not everybody reaches that level,” said Dr. Chandra, adding that some people may just develop a mild form of gum disease such as gingivitis which is the inflammation of gum. However, left unattended this mild form of gum disease can turn into something more serious such as periodontal disease. Periodontal gum disease is when bacteria triggers an infection under the gum tissue causing the gums and the bone in your mouth to deteriorate and rot. Thus, resulting in teeth becoming loose which makes chewing difficult if not impossible, ultimately ending up in having to have the teeth removed. Wonderful, right?

But that is not all, it gets worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recent studies have shown that gum disease and oral infections in general may also be connected to stroke, heart disease, diabetes, as well as premature, low-weight births. “When gums get redder or swollen and bleed, it transfers bacteria to the blood system traveling through your body, affecting organs in your body such as the heart, kidneys, spleen and others,” said Dr. Chandra. Adding that the last thing you want is to have bacterial plaque in your heart. For that matter, women beware … women are at a higher risk of having heart disease than men. That is not all, women, because of hormonal changes are more susceptible to inflammation, including the mouth. Therefore, women who do not practice regular and effective oral hygiene are more likely to develop gum disease and thus, increase your chances of having heart issues.

On the bright side, there is good news. With the technology that is available today, dentists are able to treat and prevent gum disease a lot better than they were twenty years ago.  According to Dr. Chandra, you should have oral cancer screenings done and visit your dentist two to three times a year for professional cleaning. Using today’s ultrasonic teeth cleaning technology, bacteria is literally shaken or vibrated off your teeth and gum pockets. “With this technology we can break down the cell process of the bio-cell bacteria,” said Dr. Chandra, adding that the old adage of using picks to clean your teeth is not as effective as using ultrasonic cleaners. In addition to going to the dentist on a regular basis, daily flossing and using electric toothbrushes creates the perfect combination for an effective oral hygiene routine. Electric toothbrushes are 62% more effective than a regular toothbrush. Dr. Chandra recommends using Sonicare or Oral B electric toothbrushes – the more powerful the toothbrush is the more effective the cleaning will be. However, do not use just any toothpaste, but use effective toothpaste. “The myth that using a tooth paste that has all kinds of ingredients is the most effective is not true,” said Dr. Chandra, adding that the more ingredients a tooth paste has the more abrasive it is to your teeth, damaging the teeth’s enamel. Dr. Chandra recommends using Sensodyne ProNamel tooth paste as it is less abrasive and has fluoride.

Oral health is not just about keeping your teeth clean. It is about keeping your mouth as bacteria free as possible. Avoiding excess sugars and carbohydrates which promote bad bacteria growth in the mouth, and maintaining a strict oral hygiene routine will not only keep you from a multitude of health issues in the future, but you will have a cleaner mouth with which you will have no problems kissing your mother.

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