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We all know prevention is one of the keys to maintaining good health. Taking good care of our dental health is another important step in maintaining overall health. The reasons for maintaining good oral hygiene are much more than cosmetic. While at one time it was believed the worst outcome of gum disease was tooth loss, studies have shown oral health affects the entire body. Bacteria that are present in the mouth, particularly from decaying teeth or infected gums, can easily enter the bloodstream and migrate throughout the body causing damage to the heart, lungs, and other organs. Bacterial respiratory infections are usually thought to be acquired when fine droplets in the air are inhaled. These droplets contain germs that can breed and multiply within the lungs. While this is clearly one way lung infections arise, recent research suggests the bacteria found in the mouth and throat can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract and cause infections in the lung and bronchial tubes. Individuals with poorly functioning immune systems, the very young and very old, and Alphas who have some degree of lung disease suffer from reduced protection against such infections, making them more susceptible to respiratory infections. Good oral hygiene is, therefore, a very important component of a disease management and prevention program, especially for these individuals.


According to some estimates, as many as 75 percent of adults over the age of 30 may suffer from some degree of gum disease. Gum disease begins with the formation of hard and soft deposits on the surface of the teeth. Over time, a build-up of bacteria, called plaque, collects at the gum line, eventually hardening on the teeth into calcium deposits called calculus or tartar. With poor oral care, these bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums, or gingivitis, penetrate the gum line, and finally spread into the underlying bone.


With proper oral care, gum disease can be controlled or even reversed. The human mouth always contains some bacteria, but the presence of dental infections of any type increases the number of bacteria present and can also lead to the growth of bacteria that are particularly hard to treat if they cause infection in the lungs or airways. With proper oral care, gum disease can be controlled or even reversed. 


Visiting your dental hygienist on a regular basis is one of the most important steps you can take to maintain or improve your oral health. Your dental hygienist will review your medical history, clean and polish your teeth, and refer any areas of concern to your dentist or physician. Developing a good daily cleaning regime, along with routine office visits with a dental hygienist, will control or reverse gum disease. Less than five minutes, twice a day, is all it takes to maintain or improve oral hygiene: 


Place your brush at a 45-degree angle to the junction between tooth and gum, applying gentle pressure as you move the brush away from the gums. Don’t forget to brush your tongue (with or without toothpaste), where bacteria build up. You should brush about three minutes each time you brush. 


Less than five minutes, twice a day, is all it takes to maintain or improve oral hygiene. 


Wrap 18 inches of floss around your middle fingers until you have a two-inch length between them. With the thumb and forefinger of each hand, guide the floss gently and carefully between each tooth in a “C” shape and gently guide it up and under the gum line. 


In addition to the above, some advocate the regular use of antibacterial mouthwash, particularly during cold and flu season. 


Even if you wear dentures, it is still important to clean your mouth and get regular check-ups to prevent oral health problems.