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UNUSUAL ADVICE FOR THE COLD SEASON
The cold season is here (September through March according to the National Institute of Health). The standard advice for the prevention of colds is to wash your hands and keep your immune system healthy by eating properly and exercising regularly. Washing your hands is one way of keeping the over 200 different cold viruses from getting into your system. Individuals with lower immune systems are more susceptible to colds, since your immune system helps to defend the body, if and when a cold virus slips in.
In addition to the standard advice, a less publicized approach to healthy living in the cold season is to keep your teeth clean. Here's why:
1. There are over 300 species of bacteria that live in your mouth. Viruses use bacteria as "factories" to grow and multiply. If a cold virus make its way into your mouth (usually from touching your hands to your mouth or biting your nails), the less bacteria in your mouth, the less likely the virus will grow.
2. Periodontal disease is caused by the plaque producing bacteria. 85% of the population has some form of Periodontal disease. Cytokines are released by the body in defense of Periodontal disease. These cytokines tax the body's immune system.
3. Periodontal disease is a potential contributing factor for respiratory diseases, according to the American Academy of periodentology.
The bacteria that cause periodontal disease and are taxing your immune system are breeding right now in the cozy, moist, acidic environment of your mouth. The areas between the teeth are particularly good breeding grounds because the bacteria thrive in the absence of oxygen. Symptoms of periodontal disease are often not noticeable until the disease is advanced. A dentist can diagnose the disease in the early stages, prior to individuals realizing they have it.
Periodontal disease is prevented by thoroughly cleaning your teeth. Professional cleanings at a dentist office every six months, brushing teeth twice a day and flossing once a day are recommended. Because it is a laborious task to floss, most people don't. Yet, to prevent and control periodontal disease, flossing is extremely important. Unfortunately, The Journal of Clinical Periodontology reported that for those that do floss, only 18 - 35% of the plaque between teeth is removed. And oral irrigators can't cut through plaque's sticky biofilm.
More tools are available to keep teeth and gums healthier than in the past. Electric toothbrushes - like Sonicare or Oral-B, oral irrigators - like Waterpik, tongue scrapers, oral disinfectants and even a new device - Dental Air Force that combines brushing and flossing - are available. The Dental Air Force (www.dentalairforce.com) also has an added benefit of aerating the sites between teeth, changing the environment and making it difficult for the bacteria to grow.
Whatever method of cleaning used, studies show that oral health is critical to total health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that there are over 1 billion colds every year in the US. With the cold season here, wash your hands, eat healthy, exercise AND clean your teeth.
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