Oral Health : For a Smart Mouth

A healthy mouth is essential for a healthy body, and problems in the mouth are often reflections of deficiencies or underlying disorders. Research suggests that people who have severe periodontal disease are at greater risk for heart disease, lung disease, ulcers, stroke, poor control of diabetes, and giving birth prematurely.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month, and its the perfect time to make sure your oral health regimen is on point. In addition to regular brushing and flossing, a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can help keep your mouth in good health.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal diseases are mainly the results of inflammation and infections of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, known as gingivitis, the gums can become red and swollen and may bleed. In its more serious form, called periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the teeth, bone can deteriorate, and the teeth may loosen or fall out. The process of periodontal disease is much easier to reverse if its caught early.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults age 30 and older have some form of periodontal disease -- and that number rises to 70 percent in people age 65 or older. While it affects both men and women, this condition is more common in men, and people who smoke are at a particularly high risk. Certain illnesses, such as diabetes, and certain blood disorders also create a higher risk for developing gum disease.

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

Bacteria in the mouth infect the tissue surrounding the teeth, causing the inflammation that leads to periodontal disease. If the bacteria stay on the teeth long enough, they form plaque, which eventually hardens to tartar. Teeth become harder to clean when tartar buildup spreads below the gum line, and at that point, only a dental health professional can remove it and stop the progression of gum disease.

What are the Warning Signs?

According to the CDC, the following are warning signs of periodontal disease:
  • Bad breath or a bad taste that wont go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures.
Prevention & Treatment

Good oral hygiene and regular professional cleanings are the best defense against gum disease. Brush and floss at least twice every day, and scrape your tongue after you brush every morning to control bacteria.

A healthy diet is key. Fresh raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains exercise the teeth and gums and provide the body with the vitamins and minerals that are essential for oral health. A few nutrients are particularly critical for a healthy mouth.

Vitamin C: Promotes healing of the gums. Research shows that inadequate vitamin C can make the gums tender and more susceptible to the bacteria that cause gum disease. Look for a formula with bioflavonoids, which help slow the growth of plaque.

Vitamin A: Essential for healing gum tissue. Vitamin A is also vital for the formation of tooth enamel. Look for vitamin A in a high-quality daily multivitamin.

B vitamins: The B-complex vitamins are crucial for healthy mouth tissues.

Zinc: Enhances immune function and is needed to prevent infection and promote healing.

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