Dental plaque is not just about the build-up of film on your teeth caused by bacteria or bad brushing. It is the first line in a whole array of oral problems, including gum disease and periodontal disease, which left untreated, can cause other more serious illness throughout the body. Preventative dentistry is about just that: preventing oral problems from developing in the first place, rather than just treating the symptoms as they appear. Nothing in the body is isolated. In terms of “good health”, it is important to remember the whole body functions as one unit. Each process is inter-connected to another in some way, shape, or form. That means if you want a healthy body, you can’t ignore your teeth!
Good oral health benefits the body in numerous ways, and unfortunately poor oral health can harm the body in numerous ways too. A lot of people don’t realise is that unhealthy teeth and gums, aside from just leading to cavities and tooth decay, can lead on to a whole array of much more serious conditions.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease as it is also known, has been dubbed “the most common disease in the world” and is estimated to affect a staggering 9 out of 10 people, according to an article in the Daily Mail.
Maybe because it is so common and doesn’t sound like a serious condition, many people are completely unaware of the more serious consequences associated with unhealthy teeth and gums.
Gum disease has been known by researchers since 1998 to be a dangerous trigger for coronary artery disease, strokes, pneumonia, stomach ulcers and even premature birth. In the case of premature birth, research carried out at the University of North Carolina showed that 18.2 per cent of women who went into labour early had gum disease… the trigger has been suggested as toxins from the bacteria in the diseased gums, which reach the placenta and cause the premature labour.
(Read more at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-73569/Have-got-common-disease-world.html And also see my article: ‘The Mouth Is The Mirror Of The Body’ for more specifics on understanding exactly how oral health impacts our general health and causes ).
As far as oral health is concerned, plaque is one of biggest enemies of healthy teeth and gums. So, it makes sense to take an in-depth look at dental plaque and how it can trigger ill-health in other, unrelated parts of the body.
What is dental plaque and how does it affect our teeth and gums?
Plaque is basically a sticky and soft fine film that begins to build up on our teeth over a prolonged period of time. Plaque is riddled with millions upon millions of bacteria that can harm our teeth and gums, and indeed other parts of our bodies as well. The bacteria can cause bad breath, it can cause teeth to rot and decay, and it can cause gum disease, which unchecked, can lead to more serious conditions including erectile dysfunction in men, strokes, type-2 diabetes, and even heart disease. When we consume food, the bacteria living in the plaque coating our teeth begin to feed on natural sugars present in the food, in just the same way as yeast does when brewing alcohol or baking bread. A by-product of this process is a strong acid which begins to gradually eat away at the enamel coating our teeth. If left untreated, the enamel will wear away until the teeth begin to rot and cavities and holes begin to form. Any plaque that is not removed then calcifies and turns into a hard substance known as tartar, which collects in small gaps between the teeth and on the base of the gum line. This can lead to the gums becoming inflamed and swollen and can eventually develop into periodontal disease or gum disease.
How is dental plaque removed?
With plaque, the best way to treat it is to catch it early and in order to do that it is recommended that you brush your teeth regularly, use dental floss to remove any food debris which could breed bacteria, and to use anti-bacterial mouth rinses and washes. You should also brush your tongue just as you would your teeth, as this can help to remove harmful bacteria. One of the most beneficial and efficient ways to be sure all plaque is removed is to get your teeth professionally cleaned by a hygienist. A professional hygienist will have a vast array of tools at their disposal to clean both above and below the gum line. Moreover, they will be able to check the general health of your teeth and gums at the same time, alerting you to anything your dentist may need to know about.
If you suffer, or have suffered, from periodontal disease at any time, scrupulous oral hygiene is paramount. In this case, regular check-ups by your hygienist or periodontist are especially important to manage the disease and prevent re-occurrence of the symptoms.
Myths about teeth cleaning plus, what if the plaque is left untreated?
The problem these days is that many people are so misinformed when it comes to their teeth and the various techniques required for cleaning their teeth. For example, people think that bright white teeth are healthy but they aren’t. In reality pure white teeth are often brittle and unhealthy. Many people think that cleaning your teeth with an ordinary regular toothbrush won’t remove plaque, or that they need to use an electric toothbrush, but again this is not true. Studies have revealed time and again that unless you have a specific oral problem, regular teeth cleaning does the job of fighting plaque very adequately. Certainly, if your hygienist has recommended you use a special kind of toothbrush, then you should. But an ordinary toothbrush is perfectly adequate for most of us.
If left untreated, plaque can lead to gum disease which can then lead to more serious conditions. It is like the old saying ‘from little acorns, mighty oaks grow’. If you ignore the tiny signs of ill-health in your mouth, more serious conditions manifest. Your body is a living, breathing organism. Every cell is inter-connected. Therefore true ‘Health’ involves you looking after the whole body, not just one aspect of it.
Dr Peter Galgut divides his time between treating patients at his private periodontal clinic in North London and lecturing and consulting to other dentist practitioners on the subject of reversing periodontal disease using non-surgical methods. To book an appointment without needing a referral, contact him here: Book an Appointment Direct