September 22, 2016

Oral health: A window to your overall health

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your oral health is more important than you might realize. Get the facts about how the health of your mouth, teeth and gums can affect your general health.
Did you know that your oral health offers clues about your overall health — or that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Protect yourself by learning more about the connection between your oral health and overall health.

What’s the connection between oral health and overall health?

Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

In addition, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.

Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

Your oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:

Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
Cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Certain conditions also might affect your oral health, including:

Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis — which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
Alzheimer’s disease. Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, head and neck cancers, and Sjogren’s syndrome — an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth.

Because of these potential links, tell your dentist if you’re taking any medications or have had any changes in your overall health — especially if you’ve had any recent illnesses or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

How can I protect my oral health?

To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene every day. For example:

Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
Floss daily.
Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks.
Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if bristles are frayed.
Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
Avoid tobacco use.
Also, contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.

 

 

August 11, 2016

Selfies can improve your Oral Health!

Recording smart phone video “selfies” of tooth-brushing can help people learn to improve their oral health care techniques, according to a new study.

Using smart phones propped on stands, study participants filmed their brushing at home. Researchers saw an increase in the accuracy of brush strokes, an increase in number of strokes and an overall 8 percent improvement in tooth-brushing skill — but the length of time a person brushed did not change.

While most people have the ability, motivation and desire to brush their teeth properly, they often do not because of improper techniques — and opportunities to improve such skills can be few.

“Often, tooth-brushing is learned and practiced without proper supervision,” said Lance T. Vernon, a senior instructor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and co-author of the study. “Changing tooth brushing behaviors — which are ingrained habits tied to muscle memory — can take a lot of time and guidance.”

“Our study suggests that, in the future, recording these selfies can help shift some of this time investment in improving brushing to technology,” added Vernon. “Patients can then receive feedback from dental professionals.”

The very act of recording a selfie may disrupt ingrained habits, making participants conscious of their brushing and reinforced staples of behavior change, including the process of memory formation, association and creating new muscle memory.

While the results of this small pilot study, published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research, are promising, researchers suggest that these findings are of more importance in proving the selfie concept is useful in a dental setting.

Video and picture selfies are increasingly used in medical fields to assess, monitor and determine the progression of diseases and effectiveness of treatment — a new area of gathering data known as mobile health, or “mHealth” said Vernon.

“To our knowledge, this is the first report using selfies to study tooth-brushing behavior,” he said. “It’s a start at an mHealth strategy to create new habits, helping dentists and patients focus more on prevention, rather than on fixing problems once they occur — which can too often be the focus in dentistry.”

The study

Before the study, participants’ brushing habits were assessed and corrected until each were able to demonstrate proper technique. During the study, they were scored on time spent brushing and skill mastery, including brushing in a circular motion, obtaining a 45-degree angle while brushing facial surfaces of teeth and correct positioning of the arm.

Looking ahead, researchers envision a video-based monitoring app, which could record videos of patients brushing at home that are later reviewed by oral health professionals.

“The cost of an app could be minor, while potentially there could be major long-term benefits to a user’s oral health and quality of life,” Vernon said. “Dental care can be inaccessible because of cost and access. It’s possible dental selfies and other ‘mHealth’ strategies on phones can become an important part of oral health prevention and diagnosis in the future.”

Tooth-brushing helps avert preventable oral diseases, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease, although its effectiveness depends on brushing technique; currently, there is no standard brushing technique consistently recommended by dental organizations or even by oral health experts, Vernon said.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Case Western Reserve University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

LanceT Vernon, Thavarajah Rooban, ParangimalaiDiwakar Madan Kumar, AnusaArunachalam Mohandoss, Theodore Walls. Using smartphone video “selfies” to monitor change in toothbrushing behavior after a brief intervention: A pilot study. Indian Journal of Dental Research, 2016; 27 (3): 268 DOI: 10.4103/0970-9290.186241