If students in Northeast Ohio Medical University’s Rural Medicine Interest Group are studying to become physicians, why is oral health so important?
Robert Fulton, D.D.S., a clinical associate professor of internal medicine, has doubled as a dentist for the past 40 years. At an oral health workshop held Tuesday, May 28, Dr. Fulton explained to a group of College of Medicine students that even though they aren’t training to become dentists, oral health is incredibly important to their patients.
Why? Dr. Fulton explained that oral disease is a “terribly morbid disease” and if a patient has an infection in their mouth, they likely have an infection throughout their entire body. These infections can lead to and contribute to other inflammatory diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and more.
Can these diseases be prevented by brushing your teeth? Maybe so.
When the mouth and the teeth are left un-cleaned, bacteria begins to grow and in the presence of sugar and acetic acid begins a destructive inflammatory process. As an example, if an egg is placed in a cup full of vinegar for four days, the egg’s shell, made of calcium will disintegrate. Tooth enamel is also made of calcium, so when your mouth is not thoroughly cleaned, the bacteria and acetic acid has the same destructive effect on teeth, leading to cavities.
What happens when you marinate steak in vinegar? It breaks down the protein and makes the steak soft. If that same type of acid sits on a person’s gums, it also breaks down the mouth tissue and causes inflammation, which can lead to infection in the mouth and throughout the entire body.
So what can we, as patients and physicians, do to prevent this type of decay? Dr. Fulton recommends the following plan:
- Clean the inside tissues of your mouth with a soft toothbrush. (Save your medium and hard toothbrushes for cleaning your shoes and floors, says Dr. Fulton).
- Clean between your teeth with floss. If your teeth don’t squeak, keep on flossing. Push the floss side to side to “wrap” the floss around the tooth.
- Clean the inside, top and outside of your teeth with a soft toothbrush in small circular motions.
- After brushing, check your toothbrush and gums for any bleeding areas. If you see blood, that is a sign of inflammation. If the bleeding continues after two weeks, it’s time to call the dentist.
- Stay away from sugar. In the presence of sugar, it only takes 30 seconds for bacteria to start acid production.
- Stick with the program. It may take a few weeks to get the hang of this new cleaning technique.