Dental hygiene
is linked to more
than teeth, gums:

When you hear the term ‘oral health,’ chances are you think about brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist.

All play a critical role, but Dr. Deborah Stvmiest, a Fredericton, N.B., dentist and president of the Canadian Dental Association says oral health means more than just healthy teeth.
“You have to have a healthy mouth to be a healthy person,” Stymiest says.

Stymiest calls the mouth “the window to the rest of the body” She says problems there are often a warning that some¬thing is wrong elsewhere.

Bacteria thrive in warmth and moisture, and the mouth is an extremely hospitable environment. The reason dentists and hygienists insist that patients brush and floss after every meal is that those rituals prevent bacteria from building up on the teeth. Unchecked, a buildup of plaque (soft bacteria), calculus or tartar can eat away at your gums, which will then wear down the hone that holds teeth in place.

Lose enough bone and you’re also likely to lose teeth.

Dental patients have long been warned about these issues. More recently, how¬ever, studies have shown that the bacteria in plaque can also hitch a ride in the bloodstream and travel through the body, inflicting damage along the way or at their destination.

Among the health problems linked to poor oral health are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, low birth-weight in babies, diabetes and bacterial pneumonia. The latter can occur when bacteria from the mouth moves to the lungs.

This is a particular problem for the elderly in nursing homes, whose immune systems are often weak and who may not get the help they need to brush and floss properly.

Stymiest notes that failure to brush and floss tonight is not likely to result in a chronic or fatal disease tomorrow. There are likely multiple factors at play,” she says, “but there’s absolutely no question that the consequences of poor oral hygiene go much further than your mouth.”

CanWest News Service