Tooth decay, gingivitis and periodontitis are among the most common conditions in the world. So much so that it is estimated that the majority of the world's adult population has at least one disease of the oral cavity. The most effective way to prevent all these pathologies is certainly to take care of your oral hygiene and this can be done every day at home, in the correct way. But what is the correct way? Let's see the advice and guidelines that emerge from scientific studies on how to brush your teeth and take care of oral cavity hygiene. Also, because preventing cavities and gingivitis is not just a question of the health of the mouth, but of the entire body, as we will see in the next paragraph.
The health of the mouth is the health of the body
The health of the mouth is considered the gateway to the health of the whole organism (Naseem et al, Int J Health Sci, 2017). But be careful, because the opposite is also true. In fact, poor oral health can lead to an increased risk of developing diseases. Even our mouth is populated by bacteria and also in this case, as for the gut and the skin, we speak of microbiota. Bacteria of the mouth should live in balance. In some conditions, however, the microbiota becomes unbalanced and the bacteria migrate, arriving throughout the body. In this way, the bacteria increase the levels of inflammation and can cause problems in the stomach, but also in the lungs and even in the brain (Bhatnagar et al, Contemp Clin Dent, 2021). Not only that, diseases of the oral cavity such as periodontitis are associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes (Bhatnagar et al, Contemp Clin Dent, 2021). Hence the importance of proper oral hygiene.
Brushing your teeth, when to do it and how
Brushing your teeth is the simplest and most common practice for taking care of oral hygiene, and, we add, also very effective. Indeed, the more frequency with which we clean our teeth increases, the more dental caries is reduced (Fernandez de Grado et al, PLoS One, 2021). In general, the advice of experts, to be able to remove most of the plaque, is to brush your teeth two to three times a day after meals for at least two minutes (Attin et al, Oral Health Prev Dent, 2005). In addition, a good rule is to brush your teeth 20-30 minutes after having eaten a meal. The reason is that what we eat, especially acids and sugars, temporarily alters the pH of saliva, which becomes more acidic, and this weakens the dental enamel. Brushing your teeth when the saliva is still acidic and the enamel weakened risks to damage it, this time no longer temporarily. After 20-30 minutes from the meal, however, the saliva restores the normal pH and the tooth enamel is safe (Fibryanto et al, JIOH, 2022). And what is the role of dental floss and interdental brushes? These are also important and, according to studies, if used together with the toothbrush, before or after it does not matter, they reduce the risk of gingivitis and plaque formation compared to brushing alone (Sambunjak et al, Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2019 - Silva et al, Int J Dent Hyg, 2022).
The term oil pulling refers to oral rinses performed with an oil, such as coconut, sunflower or sesame oil. Take a spoonful of the chosen oil and then push the oil from one side of the mouth to the other, forcing it to pass on the gums and between the teeth for 5-10 minutes, preferably in the morning before breakfast. The oil must then be spat out and not swallowed as it contains bacteria and toxins that were in the mouth (Shanbhang et al, J Tradit Complement Med, 2017). Oil pulling is considered a valid addition to tooth brushing to take care of oral hygiene (Woolley et al, Heliyon, 2020). Oil pulling helps to counteract the adhesion of bacteria to the mouth, with a powerful action aimed above all at those bacteria considered responsible for diseases of the oral cavity, such as Strepotococcus mutans (Naseem et al, Int J Health Sci, 2017). In addition, oil pulling improves gum health, reduces inflammation and bleeding but also the formation of stains on the teeth, which is instead observed with the use of chlorhexidine-based mouthwashes, and proves effective in counteracting the bad breath (Woolley et al, Heliyon, 2020). The different vegetable oils have a different action as regards the bacteria they can attack and the benefits they can bring. For example, studies have shown that sesame oil is particularly useful when it comes to combating bad breath and associated bacteria, with an action similar to chlorhexidine-based mouthwashes (Naseem et al, Int J Health Sci, 2017). The oils of coconut and sesame have proved useful against the bacteria that cause tooth decay (Naseem et al, Int J Health Sci, 2017). In case of taking some drugs, such as inhalers containing corticosteroids in those suffering from asthma or prolonged antibiotic treatments, help comes from coconut oil which counteracts Candida fungal infections (Naseem et al, Int J Health Sci, 2017).
And the antiseptic mouthwashes?
On the market there are mouthwashes with an antiseptic action considered an aid for oral hygiene. These mouthwashes are certainly effective in reducing plaque and bad breath but it should not be thought that they replace the toothbrush and floss, they are a useful for a correct oral hygiene only in addition to them. However, it is necessary not to exaggerate with these mouthwashes, especially if based on chlorhexidine. The problem is that these mouthwashes should not be used very often as they are associated with allergic reactions but also with tooth stains. Oil pulling has shown a similar, if not even greater action than mouthwashes with chlorhexidine without however having the same side effects (Naseem et al, Int J Health Sci, 2017). In addition, oil pulling is a less aggressive practice than the use of any type of mouthwash, the frequent use of which can reduce the presence of all bacteria in the mouth, even the good ones, which participate in the first digestion of food and in the protection of teeth and gums. So, a good choice is definitely not to overdo it with mouthwashes. In addition to the above, another reason not to overdo the use of mouthwashes is that they often contain potentially irritating, if not even carcinogenic substances capable of increasing, albeit to a small extent and only after frequent and prolonged use in the time, the risk of developing oral cancer. One of these substances is alcohol, a known carcinogen of the mouth (Boffetta et al, Eur J Cancer Prev, 2017).