Did you know that brushing and flossing your teeth on a regular basis does much more than keep your teeth and gums healthy? Good oral hygiene habits can help to prevent serious illness that you may not have even known could be caused by poor dental care.
Gingivitis, for example, is the leading cause of bleeding gums, and it affects as many as 1 out of every 2 Canadians. Gingivitis is most commonly caused by lack of oral hygiene – such as daily brushing and flossing. By brushing and flossing regularly, you remove the build-up of plaque. Failure to remove plaque then leads to the gums becoming red, sore and inflamed.
The first step in treating gingivitis is to get a thorough teeth cleaning done by a hygienist. A hygienist has proper dental tools to be able to remove the build-up of plaque that you may not be able to remove yourself by simply brushing. To continue your care and ensure your gums are on a healthy path, the hygienist will usually go over proper brushing and flossing techniques with the patient. Gargling with a warm salt-water rinse or antibacterial mouthwash may also be recommended by your hygienist or dentist, as well as more frequent teeth-cleaning appointments.
By leaving gingivitis untreated, you are at a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This is due to the fact that gingivitis can also cause infection of the gums, and the bacteria as a result of the infection can enter into the blood stream, travel directly to the arteries in the heart, and cause a condition known as atherosclerosis – commonly referred to as hardening of the arteries, which can block the body’s blood flow. Bacteria from infected gums can also enter the brain through certain nerve channels or via the blood stream, which can then lead to the development of dementia. You can also develop respiratory infections after a prolonged period of time, and even complications of diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are much more susceptible to dental disease such as gingivitis, so proper dental care is especially important in those with pre-existing health conditions such as this.
Lack of oral hygiene can also lead to tooth decay, which can then lead to potentially requiring a root canal – or, if the tooth cannot be saved, extraction. Dental extractions can be hard on the body, and the recovery process isn’t always a fun one. For instance, dry socket (also known as alveolar osteitis) is a common but extremely painful condition that can happen after dental extractions. Dry socket occurs when a blood clot does not properly form (or is lost) in the area of the extraction, leaving underlying nerves exposed, thus causing pain. In order to treat dry socket, your dentist will first clean the area and then place a special dressing in the extraction site to help speed up the healing process, though it can take several days for the pain of dry socket to diminish.
As with any dental procedure, always follow any post-op instructions given to you by your dentist and be sure to see them for a follow-up appointment if you have any concerns or questions. If you are experiencing pain and are unable to make an appointment with your dentist, try using over-the-counter analgesics such as Advil or Tylenol. If the pain becomes unbearable, then a visit to the emergency room may be warranted.