Taking proper care of your mouth is essential for your overall well-being. Your mouth consists of teeth, gums, tongue, lips and the insides of your cheeks. It serves several primary functions, namely eating, drinking, breathing and talking.
The mouth houses various germs that support your digestion and those that cause diseases such as tooth decay, holes in the teeth, gum infections, and lip blisters. One of the benefits of practising adequate mouth hygiene is to avoid bad breath (halitosis).
Poor mouth hygiene can cause:
- Tooth cavities. Having a hole in one or more teeth can result in loss of these teeth.
- Gum disease. Having swollen, bleeding, or infected gums can be painful and can also lead to loss of teeth.
- A dry mouth. When there is too little spit or saliva in the mouth can cause tooth and gum disease and may affect the way you taste and digest food. Some medicines can cause a dry mouth.
- Lip blisters. These occurs on the side of the lips as a result of dry, chapped lips, a virus infection (herpes) or malnutrition.
These problems lead to noticeable symptoms like bad breath, tooth loss, dental plaques (accumulating dirt on the teeth, which hardens over a long period), and infections. It can also lead to more severe diseases like cancer in the mouth, decreased immunity, heart disease and stroke.
Some ways to develop good mouth hygiene include:
- Brush with fluoride-containing toothpaste daily.
- Brush your teeth properly for at least two minutes, twice daily, morning and night.
- Floss at least once daily (see flossing section under wellness).
- Wash your tongue every time you brush your teeth. Use a soft brush to clean the tongue, moving in an upward and downward motion till the whitish build-up on the tongue comes off.
- Use a soft brush to clean the gums. The proper way to brush is to move upward and downward, touching the upper and lower gums.
- Rinse your mouth with mouthwashes to clean out any area that a toothbrush could not reach. Mouthwash does not replace brushing or flossing. Don't swallow mouth wash, it often contains large quantities of alcohol and fluoride. Some people find mouth wash too harsh. They may try using salt and warm water instead.
- Change your toothbrush at least twice a year. Make use of a soft-medium-type brush.
- Use a good lip balm or vaseline to moisturize your lips when the weather it is dry.
- Avoid sugary drinks and sweets as these are bad for your teeth health. Eat more fruits like apples and watermelons in stead.
- Chew sugar-free gum for 20 to 30minutes after meals. Chewing can dislodge food stuck between your teeth and the saliva that you produce by chewing the gum lowers the acidity level in your mouth, which reduces tooth decay (rinsing your mouth with water after a meal does pretty much the same).
You may not see the effect of improved mouth hygiene immediately, but within two weeks of continued attention, you should notice some changes. Your teeth will feel smoother, your gums will feel firmer and your breath should smell fresher.