Brush up for good health

Gum disease ranks second only to the common cold in terms of prevalence, with scores of the global population experiencing the problem at some point.

It really is in your best interest to practice good oral hygiene. Not only does it ensure a beautiful smile, but it is good for your health – gum disease has been linked to coronary heart disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes and diabetes. And new research also shows that women with gum disease find it harder to conceive.

How do you know if you are at risk?

Although diabetics, pregnant women, the elderly and smokers are more likely to have gum disease, everyone is at risk, particularly those who don't pay proper attention to their oral care. The most obvious sign is bleeding gums but often there are no symptoms.

"Good oral health is vital for all of us, especially if we wish to avoid the perils of gum disease, tooth loss and extensive dental work. Yet getting people to adhere to a thorough, twice daily, oral health regime, is no easy task," says Professor Robin Seymour, a leading UK periodontologist.

Dental professionals recommend a daily three-step oral care routine as the most effective option, incorporating brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash. Brushing is not enough as it only removes about 50% of bacteria and plaque in the mouth, according to Seymour.

3 steps to keep your teeth and gums healthy:
1. Brush
Brush twice daily, after breakfast and before going to bed at night. It should take at least two minutes to brush properly, cleaning each tooth with a circular motion. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to clean gently under the gum line. Don't brush too hard as this can damage gums. Use a soft, small toothbrush and replace it at least every three months.

2. Clean between the teeth
It is absolutely essential to remove plaque from between the teeth where brushing does not reach, as many dental problems, especially gum disease, start in this area. Flossing is one method of cleaning between the teeth, but because some people find it awkward, and there is generally poor adherence to a regular flossing routine, news products such as soft toothpicks and flossing brushes are becoming available.

3. Rinse
Rinsing with an anti-bacterial mouthwash is the best way of ridding your mouth of any bacteria that brushing or flossing couldn't remove. Seymour suggests using an alcohol-free mouth wash as it can be used by the whole family (children over the age of six can use it), and because new evidence is emerging linking alcohol-based mouthwash to oral cancer, according to Seymour.

"It has been estimated that anyone with extensive periodontal (gum) disease could be at a 20% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease," said Seymour. "Caring for your teeth and gums is about far more than a sparkling smile, it's an investment in your long-term well-being."
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