Habits for Oral Health
Humans are creatures of habit. We’re what we repeatedly do. What we do and avoid on a regular basis makes up our lives. These fundamental patterns impact physical well-being on every level. There is no difference when it comes to oral health.
We’ve developed methods of oral hygiene as a response to recent man-made problems. Teeth and gum related issues started to occur after shifts in human history.
Diet, habitual and environment changes are in a constant relationship with the microbiome in the mouth.
There is evidence showing that our ancestors already used tools like sticks and roots to clean their teeth from time to time. Any creature using their teeth has to deal with the cleaning of it. Some animals even cooperate with each other for example when birds clean the teeth of crocodiles.
After agricultural development, these tools improved significantly, in response to increased oral issues. Research showed that teeth related problems started to increase. The biggest negative impact so far was the industrial revolution. The past 150 years which brought never-seen well being in human history for every individual alive today. Learn more about the evolution of the oral microbiota in our previous post.
At the same time, oral health has started to decline. Until a point where we had to do systematic research to understand the underlining causes and find solutions. Water fluoridation, toothpaste high in fluoride, plastic toothbrushes, etc. These all came in the past 50 years as solutions to these new problems.
These seem to work to a certain extent, albeit recent statistics show that the ultimate solution is still ahead of us.
Cleaning teeth at least twice a day has become the norm. It means 60000+ repetition over a lifetime. There are a few things we do that often. Flossing I think is at least as important as brushing. Even after a thorough brushing with an electric toothbrush, surfaces might left uncleaned, especially between teeth and under the points they touch each other. Dental floss can easily and effectively clean those areas.
Other factors, besides diet, such as smoking, antibiotic and mouthwash abuse can lead to an imbalance in the oral microbiome and increase the risk of dental caries (cavities), gingivitis, periodontitis (gum disease), bad breath (halitosis), candidiasis, endodontic infections, and oral cancer.
When oral hygiene habits are not practiced properly the consequences are quickly becoming apparent. A decline in oral health, general health, and increase in mouth-related conditions. Supporting, rather then disrupting the oral flora is critical for long term health. It means using probiotic, rather than antibiotic mouthwash and mechanical removal of plaque from the hard surfaces on a daily basis.
There are certain bad habits that should be practiced less often.
The downsides of smoking is obvious one. I will rather write a separate blog post about it because of the severity of the topic.
Grinding and clenching of teeth happens mostly unconsciously, typically during sleep. These are habits that can lead to severe tooth wear, headaches, and jaw pain.
The amount of stress present in one’s life is often related to one’s habits and mental health hygiene. Reducing stress often requires complex solutions.
It often involves changes in lifestyle. Professional help, including dentist made appliances, might be useful. There are solutions available and it’s worth finding those individually.
There is less robust research about that posture and the position of the tongue may have impacts on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and teeth. The evidence is clear between certain childhood habits such as sucking the thumb, lack of breastfeeding or malnutrition, and the position of teeth or formation of jawbones.
How we breathe and sleep is generally important and indeed it may impact oral health. Sleep apnoea (breathlessness during sleeping) is an increasingly common issue that’s causing a huge amount of damage in the lives of those who affected.
Inadequate breathing and breathing through the mouth may lead to dryness during the night.
Dry mouth increases the risk of tooth decay and inflammation of the gums and severely impacts the quality of life.
Certain medications like steroids, diuretics or recreational drugs such as marijuana or alcohol also disrupt the fluid balance in the body and may cause dry mouth. Using these substances may lead to further, less responsible behavior and oral hygiene patterns which then decline.
I think it’s critical to evaluate our own habits and change them if it seems appropriate. All information is abundant these days on the internet.
In most parts of the world health care professionals are excited to solve these issues because they understand the importance of prevention and willing to change the system from sick care to health care.