By Dr. Gary Glassman, Chief Dental Officer at dentalcorp
In celebration of World Oral Health Day, here are 5 facts about oral health that you may be surprised to know.
1. Many breath-freshening products can actually make your breath worse.
Despite their purpose, many breath-freshening products, including toothpaste and mouthwash, can have quite the opposite effect. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a chemical commonly found in toothpastes to create the foaming action, can adversely interact with other chemicals contained in toothpaste (i.e. fluoride) and dry out the mouth. Mouth dryness in turn creates acidity, leading to bad breath. Similarly, the alcohol found in many antibacterial mouthwashes also creates this cycle of dehydrating the mouth and leading to unpleasant breath. Consider using alcohol-free mouthwashes and SLS-free alternative toothpastes, including: Biotene, Therabreath, Kiss My Face and Sensodyne.
Although these products may help temporarily, they, unfortunately, don’t deal long term with the often-biggest culprit of bad breath: odour-producing bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria further signal an imbalance in the microbial environment of your mouth, otherwise known as your oral microbiome. Oral probiotics can offer a natural and effective alternative to help restore the healthy balance of your oral microbiome.
2. Brushing your teeth immediately after eating is not recommended by oral health professionals.
Oral health professionals recommend fighting the urge to brush your teeth immediately after eating, especially after consuming sugary foods. Your teeth are particularly vulnerable after eating, as your enamel—the tough outer layer of your teeth designed to protect against erosion and decay—is weakened by sugar and acids contained in many foods. Brushing immediately afterward can cause tiny particles of enamel to be removed. Unfortunately, once the damage has been done, it cannot be reversed. Hence, it is recommended to wait at least an hour after eating before you brush your teeth. However, it is important to remember to brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes at a time.
3. Pregnant women are at a higher risk for developing gum disease.
Due to fluctuations in hormones, pregnant women are at a higher risk for developing gum disease. Changes in hormone levels can lead to irritation and inflammation of the gums, which can lead to more serious oral problems, including gum disease. It is important to let your dentist know if you are pregnant. Your dentist may recommend more frequent teeth cleaning appointments during your pregnancy to reduce your chances of developing gum disease.
4. People who are missing teeth are at a higher risk for heart disease.
Several research studies have determined a link between tooth loss and heart disease. A 2018 study in the U.S. found the risk of coronary heart disease rose by 16% among middle-aged participants who lost two or more teeth1. And tooth loss among patients with heart disease poses an even greater risk for death and stroke2. On the other hand, it was found that improving oral health by adopting a thorough tooth brushing routine can reduce the future risk of developing heart attacks by lowering levels of inflammation3.
5. Your dentist is your first line of defense for your general health.
Aside from your obvious oral health, your dentist can help screen for a number of life-threatening diseases, including oral cancer/human papillomavirus (HPV), diabetes, kidney diseases and cardiovascular/heart disease. The conditions within your mouth are largely indicative of other more serious diseases within the body. This relationship between oral health and other diseases is known as oral-systemic health, and it is estimated that roughly 90% of systemic diseases in your body are directly related to conditions in the mouth. As early detection is always the goal, it is important to maintain regular oral exams with your dentist.
(1) Epidemiology and Prevention: Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions March 21, 2018.
(2) Tooth loss is independently associated with poor outcomes in stable coronary heart disease. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2015.
(3) Randomized trial of Plaque identifying Toothpaste: Dental Plaque and Inflammation. The American Journal of Medicine, 2016.
About the Author
Dr. Gary Glassman was appointed as Chair of the DC Institute Faculty, and an Advisory member in 2016. He is a world-renowned Endodontic specialist, practicing dentist, author and editor of numerous publications, global lecturer, and is on staff at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry, Adjunct Professor of Dentistry and Director of Endodontic Programming for the University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica.
Dr. Glassman graduated from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry and was awarded the James B. Willmott Scholarship, the Mosby Scholarship and the George Hare Endodontic Scholarship for proficiency in Endodontics. A graduate of the Endodontology Program at Temple University, he received the Louis I. Grossman Study Club Award for academic and clinical proficiency in Endodontics.