A HEALTHY mouth and a healthy body go hand in hand. March 20 is World Oral Health Day, an international day to celebrate the benefits of a healthy mouth and to promote worldwide awareness of the importance of oral hygiene. Oral diseases can impact every aspect of life, from personal relationships and self-confidence to school, and work, and even to the enjoyment of food.This year’s theme is “Say Ahh: Think Mouth, Think Health”, an important message given that 90% of the world’s population will suffer from oral diseases at some point during their lives, with many of these being avoidable.Results of a survey conducted by the American Dental Association in 2012 found that many people are not aware of some of the basics to good oral hygiene, such as how often to replace your toothbrush. Other findings by the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) show that half of people aged 30 and older already have some form of periodontal disease and while people agree that routine oral health is important, only 44% seek professional dental care on a regular basis.According to the World Dental Federation, the body that represents more than one million dentists in over 130 countries, oral conditions rank among the most prevalent non-communicable diseases and affect almost four million people worldwide. A new global definition for oral health, which was accepted and approved in September 2016, has opened the door to a universal definition of oral health and acknowledges that oral health is a fundamental human right. This definition states that: “Oral health is multifaceted and includes the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow, and convey a range of emotions through facial expressions with confidence and without pain, discomfort, and disease of the craniofacial complex.”What remains clear is that not enough people are aware about the intrinsic link between your mouth and your general wellbeing. In fact, your mouth has been likened to a mirror which can reflect a person’s general health and wellbeing, revealing nutritional deficiencies and signs of other diseases.Clinical studies have shown that those with poor oral hygiene are at increased risk of developing various oral health problems such as dental cavities, periodontal disease, halitosis, oral pain and discomfort for denture wearers. Some studies have even indicated a link between some oral cancers and poor dental and oral hygiene.Periodontal disease itself comes in various forms, with gingivitis being a mild form that is generally reversible. If left untreated, a more severe periodontitis can occur resulting in major, irreversible damage to the soft tissue and bone structure of teeth. What is even more frightening is that studies have shown a link between periodontal disease and chronic health conditions such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and pre-term low weight babies. Periodontitis is also the main cause of tooth loss in adults over the age of 45.SYMPTOMS OF PERIODONTALDISEASE INCLUDE:• red, swollen or tender gums;• pain in the gum area;• signs of bleeding after brushing, flossing or eating certain foods;• inflammation or puss between gums and teeth;• signs of teeth loosening or separating;• persistent halitosis;• changes in the fit of partial dentures;• changes in positioning of teeth; and• experiencing episodes of oral pain.Following a dental routine which includes flossing and twice daily brushing can remove plaque build-up, and help prevent periodontal disease. Eating a balanced diet, not smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption can further assist in good oral health. Maintaining a healthy mouth is crucial to keeping it functioning correctly.