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Poor oral hygiene could be killing you

Lt. Col. Robert Worthington
6th Dental Squadron

The immune system responds to bacterial deposits and by-products left between the teeth and under the gums, due to inadequate oral hygiene. This periodontal disease dissolves tooth-supporting bone and leads to early tooth loss. Research now suggests that an ongoing bacterial infection of this type contributes to hardening of the arteries, a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

Considering that smoking accelerates both gum and cardiovascular disease, smokers with poor oral hygiene have a particularly explosive combination. Gum disease, if present, will be identified at your dental check-up. Strict adherence to prescribed treatment and home care will minimize risk. Tobacco users will be referred to the Health and Wellness Center tobacco-cessation program and strongly advised to quit.

For prevention, higher-priced powered toothbrush systems are very effective in removing plaque. Cheaper battery-powered brushes are nothing more than "kids' toys." Proper gum-line brushing for at least two minutes with a soft manual brush has been the standard for years and is also acceptable. Flossing remains critical as no brushing technique adequately removes bacterial deposits from between the teeth and under the gums.

The military places a huge emphasis on physical fitness, yet outwardly physically fit patients often have serious oral risk factors for preventable tooth loss, and now heart disease as well. Periodontal disease is a true, bacterial infection around the teeth. Where else in the body would anyone nurture and allow an infection to persist?

The next time you floss, take a second to smell the decaying food and bacteria you are removing from between the teeth and under the gums. If this grosses you out, think about the effects not removing it will have on your breath, your teeth and perhaps even your life.



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