Did you know that from the 17th May until 17th June it’s National Smile Month in the UK? When people think about health though, oral health is often overlooked or forgot about. However, the mouth is one of the most influential parts of our body affecting our overall health and therefore should deserve the same kind of attention that we give to the rest of our body.
Why is oral health so important?
If you don’t take enough care of your mouth, it can cause you pain, cavities as well as put you at risk of serious mouth diseases like mouth cancer.
According to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, there are over 2,700 deaths caused by mouth cancer every year worldwide and the same disease affects over half a million people each year. Mouth cancer also affects more men than women and 78% of cases are detected in individuals aged 55 or older. Furthermore, it’s worrying how more people die from mouth cancer in the UK every year compared to road accidents.
These statistics can be scary but they give a clear picture of how mouth cancer affects so many people and should be something to look out for when thinking about our overall health. In fact, many mouth cancer cases happen due to a lack of awareness about symptoms and people usually detect it too late.
Furthermore, other mouth diseases include gum disease. This can be differentiated into two types: gingivitis and periodontal disease. The symptoms of the former include gums being red and swollen, they can also bleed when brushing your teeth. Whereas, periodontal disease can be understood as long-term gingivitis and as it gets worse and if not treated properly, it can impact the bone which carries the teeth and lead to tooth loss. These two diseases are a consequence of not looking after the plaque in our mouth. Plaque is bacteria found on the outside of our teeth and it’s normal to have it; however, to prevent it from escalating and eventually causing gum disease, you should try and remove as much plaque as possible by brushing your teeth properly and flossing.
Moreover, poor oral health can also endanger your overall wellbeing as it has been linked to other health conditions like endocarditis, cardiovascular diseases, risk of premature birth when pregnant as well as other respiratory diseases. Poor oral health is particularly important for those already suffering from other conditions, like diabetes, HIV, where immune systems are weakened and therefore your body is more likely to not protect you adequately from it impacting your overall wellbeing.
How can you take care of your oral health?
To take care of your mouth, one of the essential habits to adopt is to brush your teeth a minimum of a couple of times a day, ideally after every meal with fluoride toothpaste which helps your teeth be strong against factors that may damage them, like bacteria and acid. Using mouthwash can also help you get rid of any food that brushing and flossing may not have taken care of already.
However, our diet also plays an essential role in our oral health. The two components which are the riskiest for our mouth are sugar and acid. The former interacts with our plaque, therefore can lead to creating acids that cause tooth decay. On the other hand, the acidic substance found in food and beverages is also dangerous as it can damage the enamel, which is a tissue covering our tooth. Damage to the enamel can cause your teeth to be sensitive and therefore pain when eating/drinking hot and cold items.
As a result, to keep your mouth healthy you should look out for sugary foods, like processed items and also fizzy drinks. Furthermore, acidic foods can be equally harmful, the riskiest ones are those that have a low pH number, especially under 5.5. The pH number indicates how acidic a portion of food or beverage is and can be measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with 7 being the neutral one. For example, black coffee has a pH of 5, soda of 2.5-3.5 and lemon of 2. Some risk-free drinks that have a pH number of around 7 are mineral water and milk.
Click this link to learn about a few more tips to keep your oral health in check.
How to self-examine yourself?
You can self-examine yourself in 7 easy steps:
- Check your FACE: is there any swelling, lumps? Did you develop any skin conditions recently?
- Check your NECK: are there any swellings under your jaw? Does everything seem normal on both sides?
- Check your LIPS: pull your upper and lower lip and check the inside, do you notice any change of colour? Do you feel pain?
- Check your GUMS: touch them and feel if anything hurts or changed.
- Check your CHEEKS: pull them apart and check for any lumps, ulcers, change of colour.
- Check your TONGUE: check the top for any swelling or anything unusual, also check the underside.
- Check the FLOOR and ROOF of your MOUTH: tilt your head back and look for any colour change, swelling and ulcers. Do the same for the floor of your mouth.
This guide was created by the Mouth Cancer Foundation and can help you prevent serious diseases with just a few steps that will literally take minutes. It’s always better to take precaution and check your mouth following their guide, this will help more people to take care of their mouths and therefore their overall wellbeing by spreading awareness about things to look out for. If you haven’t already, do tell your friends and families to check out the guide and do regular checkups.
Follow this link to learn more about Mouth Cancer from these learning resources and what you can do to prevent it.