September is national Oral Health Month which is the perfect time to pay extra attention to your oral hygiene routine.  Taking good care of your mouth, teeth and gums can play a role in decreasing your risks of health issues such as a heart attack, stroke and poorly controlled diabetes.  Not practicing good oral hygiene can cause bacteraemia – a disease caused by bacteria travelling from the mouth and into the bloodstream.  Bacteraemia normally has no symptoms, but the bacteria sometimes accumulates in certain organs or tissues which can lead to serious infections.  Your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, so it is very important to keep it clean and healthy.  Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that is usually caused by a bacterial infection.  If left untreated, gingivitis can turn into more severe forms of periodontal disease which can cause the gums to separate from the teeth.

Poor oral health can contribute to various disease such as:

Cardiovascular Disease:  Gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease as bacteria and inflammation in the gums may eventually lead to the narrowing of important arteries.  The damaging impact of the blood vessels and arteries can lead to hypertension

Pneumonia:  Certain types of bacteria in your mouth can travel through the air passage that leads up to your lungs which can result in pneumonia, lung infections and other respiratory issues.

Endocarditis:  This is the inflammation of the inner lining of your heart valves and it typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body such as your mouth spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.

Diabetes:  People with diabetes are susceptible to infection such as infected gums that can lead to periodontal disease, but periodontal disease can in turn make more difficult to control.  As gum disease can lead to higher than normal blood sugar levels, a person with poor oral hygiene is at an increased risk of developing diabetes. ₁

Kidney Disease:  Kidney disease is a health problem that affects the kidneys, heart, bones and blood pressure.  Having infections such as periodontal disease can lead to kidney disease.  A lot of people that suffer from poor oral health also suffer from kidney disease.

Gert Coetzee, Pharmacist and Diet pioneer who founded The Diet Everyone Talks About says that for the abovementioned reasons, it is very important for us to keep our mouths healthy and clean.  Below he lists some foods that help with oral hygiene:

Apples:  Eating apples regularly helps increase the production of saliva in the mouth while the fiber in them stimulate the gums.  The water content and fibrous nature of apples make them great for oral health.

Carrots:  Carrots are full of fiber, crunchy and contain water which makes them an excellent choice for dental health.  Eating carrots helps boost saliva production in the mouth which helps minimise the risk of getting cavities.

Parsley:  Apart from being high in antioxidants, parsley is an anti-bacterial agent that can help you maintain dental health.  The nutrients present in this herb are considered beneficial for your overall health.

Leafy greens:  The minerals and vitamins present in leafy greens can help strengthen the enamel and their low-calorie content can prevent any harm to the body in the long run.

Cheese and milk:  These two foods are great options when it comes to dental health.  They are both high in protein and calcium which is required for tooth enamel. ₂

Below are some tips that will help you protect your oral health:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily.
  • Floss daily.
  • Use mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing your teeth or flossing.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if the bristles are worn out.
  • Schedule regular dental check-ups.
  • Have a healthy diet.