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We've all been made aware of the importance of a healthy gut flora, but did you know that your mouth has its own distinctive microbiome that's just as important?
Oral health is essential to your overall well-being. However, for many of us, our oral health practices could use a little TLC.
It's estimated that up to 47 per cent of adults have some form of gum disease, and its related risks are startling. Research shows troubling links between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and even pneumonia.
Recent studies have also placed a link between oral health and COVID-19 patient outcomes. In an international study led by McGill researchers, gum disease was linked to increased rates of complications, hospitalization, and death among patients with severe cases of the virus.
So, needless to say, your oral health is worth paying attention to. To better your oral health, check out these five dental hygiene tips and tricks.
Don't forget your tongue
One part of your oral health that you might be unintentionally neglecting is your tongue. A person's mouth can house up to 700 species of bacteria, and while some microbes are beneficial, others can lead to problems like tooth decay and gum disease down the road.
Bacteria can easily accumulate in the crevices of your tongue, which is why it's beneficial to invest in a tongue scraper. In addition to brushing and flossing, using a tongue scraper can improve bad breath and remove bacteria more effectively than brushing alone.
Brush your teeth
An age-old question: How often do you need to brush your teeth? Plaque starts to form between four and 12 hours after brushing your teeth, so depending on your schedule, two to three times a day is optimal.
Additionally, in a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that individuals with poor oral hygiene had an increased risk of heart disease compared to those who brushed twice a day.
In regards to toothbrushes, electric is king. In fact, a recent study found that users had 20 per cent less plaque and 50 per cent less bleeding when using electric toothbrushes than people with manual toothbrushes.
Tip: Remember to replace brush heads every three to four months to avoid a build-up of bacteria.
Did you know that some dental flosses contain chemicals? Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemicals that have their roots in Teflon and can be found in everything from waterproof raincoats and cookware to some dental flosses.
According to the Environmental Working Group, PFAS "build up in our bodies and never break down in the environment. Very small doses of PFAS have been linked to cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, and other diseases."
While the science is still out whether or not the PFAS in dental floss are harmful, an eco-friendly floss is a great idea for those looking to cut out the risk entirely.
Give oil pulling a try
Oil pulling has been used for centuries as a way to clean teeth and gums, and while there's still research to be done, anecdotally, millions of people swear by it. If you're interested in giving the natural technique a go, it's important to be selective on what kind of oil you're using.
However, the research is still limited, and the American Dental Association maintains that brushing and flossing are still the most important oral health measures you can take. So, think of oil pulling as an extension to your dental routine, rather than its star player.
Not all mouthwashes are created the same
If the thought of oil pulling turns you off, a good old saltwater wash can do just the trick. Saltwater has been shown to reduce inflammation and promote a balanced oral pH, which is great for your microbiome.
While conventional mouthwashes may be in abundance at the grocery store, the alcohol in some formulas may dry out your mouth and ironically cause bad breath. However, if you need that post-wash minty freshness, essential oil gumdrops may be just what you're looking for.