Oral Hell and Oral Health

Funny view from inside mouthImage Source: Smint Ad Campaign

You could have Jessica Alba’s skin, Scarlett Johansson’s lips, Mila Jovovich’s eyes and Angelina Jolie’s (ex) boobs… but if your breath could melt cement, you can ship your ass off to the other side of that bar, thank you!

A beautiful smile is perhaps the most cliché of all physical assets when it comes to what one considers attractive; that and hair and eyes. While there’s not much you can do to maintain beautiful eyes (besides cutting down on smoking herb), all your teeth need is regular brushing and flossing and the reward you enjoy is a beautiful white smile. This is something that Hollywood superstars spend a veritable fortune on.

Yet in spite of the glaringly obvious logic, oral hygiene doesn’t get the recognition it should and as far as attraction is concerned, I consider it key! Why? Do you have any idea what goes on in your mouth? It’s a writhing cesspool of bacteria!

Your Mouth: Pathogen Paradise

oral-bacteria-in-your-mouth

We share our world, our body and our mouths with billions of tiny microorganisms. Being a warm moist cavity, your mouth is an excellent environment for them because, just like Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton, bacteria love warm, moist cavities.

The proliferation of oral bacteria is fuelled by the sugar and food debris left in your mouth after eating a meal, or after sipping on a delicious, ice cold beverage. Mmmm, beer. But, just like everything else that eats, bacteria need to use the toilet too and the wastes they produce are not only acidic, they are also packed with sulphuric compounds. These – if you can recall that unfortunate incident in High School chemistry class, your mother’s nauseating flatulence or a visit to the local geothermal hot springs – smell very much like rotten eggs.

And aside from the obvious onion and garlic-loaded meal, THIS is what causes bad breath: bacteria poop.

young girl checks her breath with her hand

In addition to using your teeth as their bathroom, bacteria are workaholics. Their wastes accumulate relentlessly on your tongue, teeth and gums in between your efforts to keep them clean. If you ever wanted to see evidence of this waste, simply use your fingernail to gently scrape at your teeth, particularly at the margin with the gums. That white sticky substance that comes off is called plaque and it’s composed of alive bacteria, dead bacteria and bacteria poop.

Left in place for too long, plaque becomes tartar. Bacteria establish vast condominiums and apartment blocks, perhaps a school or two, a post office, library and police station ON your teeth. In other words, a far more permanent settlement and no amount of vigorous brushing can tear down these structures. To remove tartar, you need to see the dental hygienist who will get to work destroying the lives of gazillions of bacteria families by levelling schools, razing houses to the ground and basically bringing Armageddon down upon the pathogens inhabiting your mouth.

The Tyranny of Plaque and Tartar

funny Horse with open mouth

Plaque and tartar are the reason dentists encourage you to brush your teeth more than just once a month. All it takes is a few hours for bacteria to coat your teeth in their gross mess and the acidity of it eats away at your teeth, which causes cavities. So, contrary to popular understanding, sugar, sweets and candy don’t cause cavities, bacteria do. But bacteria, like Bill Cosby, LOVE them some sugar. It provides them with the energy to multiply faster and so, people who eat a lot of sugar and refined carbohydrates will probably find themselves at a greater risk of cavities than those who eat healthily, like those annoying vegans and vegetarians who are out to make everyone look like sadomasochists.

The tyranny of bacteria poop doesn’t end there… being highly acidic, it also irritates the soft tissues in your mouth, particularly the gums, which become angry and inflamed in response. The medical terminology for inflammation is “itis” – think laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx), tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon), meningitis (inflammation of the brain)… and so, people with poor oral hygiene and a diet full of sweets, candy, alcohol and other delights tend to suffer from gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).

Then there’s periodontitis.

Periodontitis. Claiming Teeth and Killing Sex Lives Since, Like, Forever 

Funny old man toothless

Image Source: FunnyChillies.com

Periodontitis is gingivitis on steroids. It’s what happens over the course of many years when you neglect to brush and floss your teeth frequently enough. It’s what happens when you compliment your deplorable oral hygiene routine with habits such as smoking, excessive drinking and a diet that is full of the wrong stuff and in severe shortage of the right stuff.

Heads up: do NOT Google “periodontitis” if you want to keep your lunch down.

Periodontitis (peri – “around”, dont – “tooth”, itis – “inflammation”) is an aggressive bacterial infection of the gums and one that extends deep into the seemingly watertight spaces between the roots of your teeth and the gums that surround them. It does this by slowly destroying the ligaments and tissues that attach the gums to the teeth, thereby forming deep pockets in which oral bacteria are left to happily bonk (themselves), produce babies and poop to their heartless content.

At this stage in the infection, there is absolutely nothing you can do to redeem yourself, unless you can figure out how to get a toothbrush underneath your gum tissue to scrub your tooth roots clean, although I’m guessing that would be about as uncomfortable as the silence around the dinner table after your mom has accidentally discovered your vibrator.

So what’s the solution? What can people who have neglected their oral health do to be able to breathe again without offending everybody within a three-mile radius?

Female medical doctor - dentist - showing chewing gum. Dental care

Salivation, I Mean, Salvation 

The good news is that if you have been diagnosed with gum problems such as gingivitis or, Gawd forbid, periodontitis, treatment is available! Also, you’re not alone. According to the Centre for Disease Control, a pretty shocking 80% of the population of America suffers with some kind of gum infection, be it localised or general, mild or aggressive.

And you guys are supposed to be the most advanced nation on the planet? Pssshhh!

If you have been diagnosed with gum problems, you will just have to resign yourself to to the fact that you’re going to have to spend a couple of uncomfortable sessions in the dentist’s chair. You might even be referred to a dental specialist known as a periodontist. What’s the difference? Periodontists sit back in their chair with a calm demeanour and steepled fingers in a way that only those who charge a disgusting amount of money for 15 minutes of their time can do.

I want to be one of those people one day.

Periodontists also focus their efforts on treating conditions, infections and diseases that affect the gum tissue and bone surrounding the teeth, much like a cardiovascular surgeons focuses on treating conditions, infections and diseases that affect the heart. The good thing about opting for timely treatment is that the alternative is tooth loss and a sloppy, gummy smile that is guaranteed to end your sex life for good.

toothless-man

What’s The Prognosis, Doc?

Dental treatment may cost a fair penny and it may not be the most pleasurable sensation in the world having your gums peeled back from the roots of your teeth to clear out all the muck, bacteria and other gross things you’ve been harbouring there since you decided to quit your oral hygiene career and instead become a hedonistic couch potato. When you consider the outcomes of this kind of decision, I find it difficult to believe that anyone would make any other choice. But there IS another choice short of ignoring how disgusting you’ve allowed your mouth to become and it’s a revelation of epic proportions. It will blow your mind! It will change your life forever!

Dental hygiene

Prevention!

Ask any pregnant teen! Prevention is the answer! Just first make sure they aren’t of the Mormon persuasion, because I believe teen pregnancy is quite normal to them.

Prevention is better than cure and this may be the boring part because it reminds you of every conversation you’ve ever had with your dentist. By brushing your teeth at least twice a day, by flossing before you go to bed at night EVERY night and by visiting the dentist once per year to have your teeth professionally cleaned and your oral health assessed, you can prevent yourself from falling victim to gross diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. You can prevent the build-up of bacterial poop on your pearly whites, gums and tongue, thereby helping to keep your breath tolerable, rather than smelling like a flatulant geothermal vent.

This is a good thing because if you enjoy kissing people of the opposite sex (or same sex; no one’s judging) then the clean breath associated with a healthy mouth is a MUST. Like I said right at the start: you could be a vision of smouldering hotness, but if you have the kind of mephitic breath that is befitting of the family lavatory after Mexican food night, I would literally rather make out with Rosie O’Donnell.

Class Dismissed: Your Take-Home Message

happy and smiling girl with a smile painted on paper

In this horribly germophobic society we live in, there is this ridiculous paradox: the same people who go out of their way to NOT touch the stairway banister or escalator railing in the fear of contracting the Ebola virus, will go to bed without flossing their teeth. The same people who shower two or even three times a day and insist on changing their bed sheets every week haven’t seen the inside of a dentist’s office since they had their braces removed at the age of 14.

There are three integral components to maintaining good oral health and they are so easy, there’s absolutely no excuse for not doing them: (1) brush two to three times a day for two minutes at a time, (2) floss every day before you go to bed at night and (3) see your dentist and oral hygienist at least once per year.

There’s nothing more attractive than a healthy smile. Also, you’re not a shark. You only have one chance at permanent teeth, so look after them!

Author: Thea Beckman

Domain Eukarya, kingdom Animalia (Metazoa), phylum Chordata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Hominidae, genus Homo, species Homo sapiens, subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens... essentially. I have a Master's Degree in Atmospheric science, which doesn't entitle me to be generous with my opinion, but my sense of self importance does! I love writing, I love science, I love reading, but I'm not nuts about long walks on the beach. Short to medium walks are preferable. This is my blog and I have something important to say: https://whybecausescience.wordpress.com/

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