Updated: Jun 12
We as a nation are inherently negligent of out teeth. We run to a doctor for a cut, or a bruise to the finger, but tend to procrastinate the visit to a dentist for as long as possible in case of teeth problems. Our teeth are not expendable, they are worth taking care of for sure. One of the reasons for this attitude towards one's health of the dentures is that periodontal disease begins very silently and remains painless other than a pinkish red smudge on the toothbrush, or on the bitten surface of the fruit one has munched into. Don't know why, but the mind refuses to take these signals as symptoms of the beginning of a threat to one's overall health.
Another of the reason is the lack of awareness about oral health in general public, which explains the prevalence of tooth disease across all economic, and educational levels thriving in the society. India especially ranks highest on bad dental practices; from using cow urine to gargle to using burnt cow dung, black earth, or even tobacco to brush the teeth with. To top it all most of us are not aware of the right way to use a toothbrush, forget about subtler techniques like flossing.
Till 40 years ago, teeth problems were not very common with Indians as compared to their western counterparts; Indian had healthy eating habits as their diet included fiber filled, calcium rich green leafy and raw vegetables, beans and pulses against the highly processed foods like chocolates, and sweets of the westerns. Indians at that time used to suffer more from gum diseases caused by the tartar build up due to neglect and ignorance. Today, due to commercialization, and globalization of economy, western dietary habits have invaded our dinning tables, tagged along came the tooth decays, and cavity riddled dentures. Add to this our propensity to ignore oral health and the situation turns really dire.
Know Your Teeth for A better Dental Health
For humans, the mouth undertakes a number of activities; speaking, eating, kissing, and smiling are some of the common functions it engages in. Teeth play a vital role in biting, chewing, and swallowing`which form the part of the eating process. By default adults have 32 teeth. How much does a layman knows about his teeth, do we ever make an effort to know our own unique teeth, what shape they are? what color? and how are they arranged within our mouth?
Each tooth is half visible above the gum line, and the other half is embedded inside the gums; the visible part is known as the crown, and the part of the tooth inside the gum line is known as the root of the tooth. Nature has imparted a hard covering on top of the crown of the tooth known as enamel. Th enamel, the hardest substance in the body, is a thin layer of calcified material which adds extra hardness, strength to the part of the tooth which is exposed to the abrasion and impact of the grind while biting, and chewing, the two main functions of the teeth. The enamel can be eroded by a stress related condition known as Bruxism or teeth grinding.
The counterpart of enamel, outer coating on the crown of the tooth, on the root of the tooth is known as cementum. Cementum, less hard than enamel, is bound to the bony tooth socket by the periodontal ligament. The inner bony part of the tooth body that the enamel and the cementum cover from outside is the dentin. It is lower on the hardness scale in comparison to the enamel and the cementum, but is still harder than the bone. Dentin forms the surroundings of the hollow core of the tooth, the root canal or the pulp canal. The nerves, and the blood vessels enter the tooth through an opening in the root tip , and end into the pulp canal of the tooth in order to keep the tooth nourished.
In case one has taken good oral care the health of the tooth can be seen in the firm, pink gums surrounding its visible part from all sides. The technical name for the gums is gingiva. The gums healthy tissue makes a snug contact with the tooth by folding itself inwards ,underneath itself at the points of its contacts around the tooth. The folding under, and back of the gum tissue around the tooth forms a small groove around it which is known as gingival sulcus. Secretion of saliva from the salivary glands present in the mouth is crucial to the health of the teeth. Saliva is a natural protection for the mouth from any decay or disease; it flushes the food particles out of the mouth into the esophagus, being alkaline in nature it helps neutralize any acids that can eat onto the surface of the teeth; it is poison to a large variety of microbes, it helps restore minerals in the enamel, and accelerates healing of any wounds if present.
Bad Oral Health and Dangers of Plaque Buildup
At any given moment some 500 species of bacteria are thriving in the moist environment of the mouth. Plaque is the work of these bacteria which is a sticky, colorless film that remain wrapped around the teeth. Tartar is the hardened-over-time layer of plaque which is difficult to remove. Plaque, and tartar can pose a serious threat to the dental health in a number of ways, depending on where they are formed.
Cavities - Plaque cause Decay
The presence of plaque turns every instance of eating into a attack on the health of the teeth; the bacteria present in the plaque transform the sugars, and the starches from the ingested food into tooth eating acids. In case the acid producing plaque remains stuck to the teeth for long the enamel, and dentine forming tooth material begins to dissolve. Acid is naturally present within certain food items like the citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks, consuming such foods can similarly contribute to the destruction of the minerals foring the tooth structure. Adapting healthy eating habits can help prevent all forms of tooth decay caused due to unnecessary exposure of the teeth to the mineral dissolving acids which form in one's mouth.
Tooth decay can begin at any age depending on the stage of life one is ignoring the principles of good oral hygiene. The abrasion of the tooth caused by the acids generally takes foot along the rough edges, or where the adjacent teeth are in contact with each other. It can also set in any pits or fissures present , or along the grinding surface of the teeth. The visible signs of the onset of the tooth decay can range from a light brown blotch on the enamel to a chalky line above the gums. Tooth decay is the reason for heightening the sensitivity of the teeth to the temperature extremes of the food being ingested.
The root of the tooth lacks the protection of the enamel as in the case of the crown, thus the acids so produced, or ingested in the mouth can easily erode the root part of the tooth in case the gums which form the protective covering around the roots have also receded leaving the root defenceless to the acid attack. Generally, the pace of decay at the root of the tooth is faster than at the enamel protected crown. Only a proper tooth care regime can help keep the decay at bay, in case of poor oral care practices the acid forming bacteria can easily drill through the layers of the tooth , the enamel, dentin, cementum, and infest the central blood vessels, and nerve filled central chamber with abscess. This can cause a severe toothache as the pain sensitive nerve endings get involved now.
The immune system of the body perceives the presence of plaque , or tartar as the external threat to the well being of the body, it reacts by causing the gums to become swollen, red and occasionally bleed, the condition is known as gingivitis. Though the symptoms of gingivitis appear mild it can lead to more advanced periodontal disease in case left untreated.
In the event of the plaque forming bacteria invading the part of the tooth below the gum line, root of the tooth, the gum tissue begins to detach from the surface of the root of the teeth due to the irritation generated by the bacteria for long duration of time. As the gum tissue present below the gum line release its grip on the teeth, spaces with no air are formed around the line of the teeth below the surface of the gums . These airless spaces so created are easy targets for infection causing microbes which can eat up the tissue and the part of the jaw bone which provides support to the teeth over time. This condition is also known as chronic periodontal ( gums) disease which if left unattended to becomes the cause for the teeth to eventually lose their grip on the Jaw and fall out of the mouth, this condition is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults.
Threats to Dental Health and Teeth care
Fluoride strengthens teeth against cavities and the related decay. Try to consume water which is well fortified with the fluoride salts though one cannot do much about it as state laws in certain countries forbid adding fluoride to the water supplied for domestic consumption. Moreover presence of fluoride in natural water again is region dependent; regions with abundance in fluoride minerals hold water rich in this mineral, while other regions can be severely deficit of it. Other less effective way of compensating for the lack of fluoride in natural water is using fluoride toothpaste; teeth better absorb fluoride which comes from the bloodstream as a result of digestion of fluoride carrying food, or water than when it is applied topically. Importing fluoride rich tablets from abroad can render them more expensive to use by the common masses of our country.
An unbalanced diet or the food consumed the wrong way can lead to tooth decay and diseased gums. Knowing what to eat and how to eat can help one improve one's health which reflects well in the strong and healthy dentures. The more one ingests sugary foods and beverages the more one supplies the decay causing bacteria to work upon. Even the saliva turns acidic by consuming more of processed, and acid releasing foods in one's diet. Inflictions like oral cancer, and other signs of bad oral health has penetrated our, once known for good oral hygiene, villages tagged along with the western food habits being propagated by the so called multinational food industry.
Smokers are seven times more susceptible to developing tooth, gum diseases than non smoking population. Tobacco renders the gums weak against the bacterial attack within the mouth, Non smokers heal faster after a dental procedure than smokers. Studies have found the habit of chewing tobacco to be clearly linked to oral cancer, formation of cavities in the root of the tooth, and the detaching of the gums from the teeth.
Using the toothbrush the wrong way can cause wear and tear of the teeth tissue, also rubbing hard substances like burnt cow dung ash on the teeth to clean them can sandpaper the enamel off the crown of the tooth.
Saliva has a crucial role to play in the health of the teeth; it cleans, disinfect, and remineralize the teeth. Absence of saliva, a condition called mouth or xerostomia, can lead to multiple cavities and periodontal disease in the mouth. If present one must see a doctor to combat dry mouth at the earliest possible.
Diabetes, if not properly controlled, can lead to teeth, and gum diseases as it lowers the resistance of the gums, and the teeth to the acid producing bacteria. On the reverse side it has been found that controlling gum disease can lower the blood sugar levels in the diabetics.
Osteoporosis which leads to porous bones, or reduced mineral density forming the bones, can accelerate the progress of periodontal disease. As the bone of the jaw which remains clenched onto the root of the teeth, fixing it in position, loses its strength due to loss of mineral density, in osteoporosis, the teeth go loose and infected by the plaque forming microbes.
Diseases like alzheimer's, arthritis, stroke, and parkinson's can restrict one's limb movements - hands, and arms - which is essential to good oral care leading to the patient's inability to take care of his/ her dentures. In such cases lengthen the handle of the toothbrush by sticking it on a ruler, or inserting it into a sponge or a tennis ball. An unattended to set of 32 can develop serious degeneration in for form of cavities and loosening gums over the period of time.
Certain medications which are used to treat epilepsy, cyclosporin, and drugs used for blocking calcium channels in the patients of heart related diseases, or hypertension can lead to inflamed, or overgrown gums, a condition known as gingival hyperplasia.
As the levels of estrogen drop with menopause occurrence of the condition of dry mouth becomes common which leads to tooth decay in females.
Brush your Teeth the right way
Right Toothbrush for better Oral Hygiene
One must compulsorily brush one's teeth twice everyday: once in the morning the moment one is out from the bed, and ones in the evening just before retiring to to the bed. India has the tradition of cleaning teeth with the brush made of softened fibers ( after chewing) at the edge of the branch of a banyan, neem or babul twig the natural way. The branch is first munched on to break the fibers at one of the edges into a brush like structure, munching also releases anti bacterial juices of these species of trees, abundantly found in India, along with properly swishing them around in every corner of the mouth which benefit the overall health of the dentures.
Modern lifestyle leaves us with only one choice of tool for teeth care; the toothbrush. Always choose a truth brush with a smaller head. The row, clusters of bristles as arranged on the head of the toothbrush must not be very close, there should be ample space between them. Toothbrush with longer head with closely packed rows of bristles is prone to formation of crust and is less efficient in removing the debris caught between the spaces lining the arrangement of the teeth over the jaw bone. This is because long head of the toothbrush cannot align properly to the inner curvature of the line of the teeth, leaving the inner cervices out of its reach.
A truthbrush with shorter head can easily move into all the corners, spaces of the rows of the teeth. Always use brush with soft bristles only, hard bristled brushes can scrub off the enamel of the tooth, or may injure the gums. The bristles must be slightly rounded at the ends. Make sure that one replaces one's toothbrush every 2-3 months, or earlier in case the bristles become frayed, worn out, or bent. Position the toothbrush at 45 degrees to the surface of the teeth to be cleaned and move it gently in circular motion to clean the surface of the gum tissue. Always remember to brush clean the gums along with the teeth.
For cleaning the biting surface, and front and back of the teeth use up-and-down or back-and-forth movements of the brush. Do scrub the surface of the tongue, especially the back part, in order to dislodge any infection causing bacteria from there. Lightly massaging the gums and the tongue with the toothbrush also stimulate the blood vessels present there increasing the blood supply to the region. The gums which remain inundated with fresh blood are in a better position to fight bacterial infections.
The movement of the toothbrush must be from the lower row of teeth to the upper row with the jaws remaining closed. Begin the up and down movement from the left wisdom tooth, and slowly moving to the center end it on the right wisdom tooth. Never use the toothbrush in a criss cross manner, and avoid producing any sound from the movements so made. The movement is always up and down, and never across the teeth. Next use the short head to clean the crevices within the jaws. Never use tongue scrapers, use the soft bristles of the toothbrush to scrub off any coating present on the surface of the tongue.
After use, the toothbrush must be copiously washed with cold water till the last remaining remnant of the toothpaste within its bristles. It should then be dried over a dry towel and placed back in a toothbrush case or hung over a nail on the wall. In case the toothbrush is left wet it becomes the breeding ground for all sorts of germs.
Teeth care with the right Toothpaste
Though the most used item, most of us are oblivious to the composition of a toothpaste and its purpose. Ingredients of toothpastes of all types can be broadly put into these categories:
A fine abrasive like chalk or calcium diphosphate to remove the stains on the teeth
A cleansing agent
A humidifier to prevent drying of the paste
A binding substance to maintain consistency
A preservative to prevent bacterial growth
Flavouring agents, sweeteners or foaming agents, and or herbicidal essences like neem oil, or clove oil etc
The abrasives used must be the finest, particle size must be less than 150 microns, as coarser material than this carries the potential to damage the enamel of the teeth. A good toothpaste must be minimum on chalk, and must have something for strengthening the gums. Wetting the toothbrush before drawing the toothpaste on it is not required. Use a flouride toothpaste to extra arm the teeth against any bacterial attack. Special toothpastes for tartar control, or teeth whitening can increase the sensitivity of the teeth. For already sensitive teeth use special toothpaste made for sensitive teeth.
Gargle for better tooth care
Take time to garle as many times as possible, a lot of people just gargle 3 - 4 four times after brushing the teeth and rush off to have breakfast with the taste of the toothpaste still lingering in the mouth. There are more bacteria present in the mouth than the anus, or on our hands or feet when we come in the house from outside. Our Shastras have recommended gargling at least 11 times after cleaning the teeth, defecating, urinating, or after washing the feet if one comes back home from outside. The more one gargles the more one washes out the bacteria. After which take some cold water in the cupped palms of both the hands and keep the eyes dipped into them for sometime. This will relax the muscles around the eyes of any strain.
Take care of your teeth with Flossing
The floss must be gently moved between the teeth, avoid snapping it into the gums at any cost. Hold the floss tight at the gumline, bent into a C shape around a single tooth and move it up and down. Try to reach slightly below the gumline, without damaging it, with each stroke. Material of the floss is immaterial in affecting the quality of the cleaning it can achieve. A simple sewing thread can be equally potent.
The topic, " how to take care of your teeth", is included in the curriculum of our Yoga camps held at our yoga retreat near Chandigarh, as well as in our yoga teaching sessions for general health benefits. You can also benefit from our Online yoga sessions in the comforts of your home conducted by our experts on Yoga techniques. Our yoga at home classes also include dental health care in its ambit.
Our teeth, positioned at the entrance of the digestive canal hold a strong control over the overall health of the being. In fact heath of the teeth can reflect the health of other areas, body systems of the human body like the heart. Improper eating habits, eating food which is bad for teeth can lead to cavities in the teeth causing irreparable damage to out string of pearls present within our mouths. Improper oral hygiene can leave the plaque causing bacteria at large to form cavities, and related periodontal disease of the teeth, and the gums. One must become aware of the threats, or the dangers to dental health and try to avoid them as much as possible. Knowing the right way to use the brush, and the qualities of a toothpaste is the foremost duty of everyone who value their dentures.
One must use various techniques like flossing, and gargling to keep one's teeth out of the clutches of any possible diseases.