There's no denying the array of adverse health consequences associated with failing to brush one's teeth - yet many of your patients probably still struggle with maintaining regular and thorough brushing.
Of course, we must continue to press forward and encourage patients to brush!
At the centre of your potential for successful patient outcomes is giving clear, understandable proof of the associated health benefits of consistent teeth-brushing. For instance, there is growing evidence that consistently brushing our teeth is conducive to preventing heart failure.
The Health Benefits of Brushing Your Teeth
As you know, daily brushing prevents harmful bacteria from causing oral infections (e.g., tooth decay and gum disease). However, as we develop a deeper understanding of the oral-systemic link, it is clear that oral health has a strong connection to a wide variety of conditions beyond the oral cavity.
For example, there's reason to believe that keeping up with oral hygiene can protect from severe respiratory infections; a study from 2011 has linked gum disease to poor lung health.
Brushing regularly also fends off bacteria called fusobacterium nucleatum. High levels of this bacterium have been found in patients with colorectal cancer.
The bacteria connected to gum disease, P. gingivitis, is also believed to contribute to worsened rheumatoid arthritis. In studies with mice, researchers found a form of rheumatoid arthritis RA was further exacerbated with the addition of P. gingivitis, which promoted bone and cartilage breakdown.
The Science Behind Oral Health's Impact on Heart Health
When your patients brush their teeth twice a day – for at least two minutes – the risk for cardiovascular disease is lessened. Various studies have been performed on this subject, looking at it from different angles.
In the next section, we'll look at several studies that highlight how vital brushing teeth is to your patients' heart health.
One study assessed how lacking in oral hygiene causes bacteria to emanate in the blood. This leads to body inflammation, which is conducive to an irregular heartbeat and heart failure.
The researchers examined the results provided by 161,286, aged 40 to 79, who had no history of the conditions mentioned above. After routine medical examinations, information was collected about various health factors, including oral health and oral hygiene behaviours.
There was a follow-up after 10.5 years that showed 3% of participants with an irregular heartbeat and 4.9% with heart failure.
The findings revealed that those brushing their teeth 3-plus times per day had a 10% lower risk of experiencing an irregular heartbeat. It was also decided that adhering to those best-practice oral hygiene standards generated a 12% lower risk of heart failure after the 10.5-year follow-up.
Though, these findings didn't consider things like age, sex, socioeconomic status, regular exercise, alcohol consumption, body mass index, and comorbidities (e.g., hypertension).
Another study that was presented to the American Heart Association took an in-depth look at heart health.
More specifically, those involved in the research examined whether a person's teeth-brushing habits impacted their risk of experiencing a heart attack, heart failure or stroke.
682 people were queried about their oral hygiene habits. It was found through various mechanisms that those brushing less than twice per day for less than two minutes were at an increased risk of those negative heart-centric consequences.
Compared to those brushing at least twice a day for at least two minutes, less frequent brushers presented a three-fold higher possibility of experiencing those heart-related ailments.
The Facts Speak for Themselves: Oral Health is Simply “Health”
Some patients might brush aside (pardon the pun) the importance of brushing their teeth. They might mistakenly believe that keeping their mouths clean and fresh is mostly aesthetic in its function.
However, with the above information, you can show to your patients how vital brushing their teeth can be to their overall health.
Dental patients must have a full understanding that oral health isn't its own category. Instead, what happens in our mouths plays a role in the rest of our bodies. Such a notion should be a primary focus in how we all care for ourselves.