Oral Hygiene: Your Self-Care Personal Care For Your Well-Being – Loh Siew Yim and Klarene Ow Kwai Lyn | What you think



OCTOBER 17 – Oral hygiene is part of the broader field of personal care in the area of ​​activities of daily living and is closely related to general health and well-being. Activities of daily living are at the heart of occupational therapists, health specialists who would like to assess and intervene the barriers hampering these performances in vulnerable populations such as children and adults with disabilities. Oral hygiene is often overlooked or receives less attention than other daily activities, which occupational therapists would focus on for their intervention to enable functional independence in people living with the disease. Foreign research on long-term care for the elderly reported that only 16% (of 413 inpatients) who had received oral hygiene care focused on other non-oral aspects. dental. However, even in the “normal” or healthy population (undiagnosed with no pathology), oral hygiene care should also be encouraged.

Definition of oral hygiene

Most people generally refer to oral hygiene as ‘brushing the teeth’ or maintaining the hygiene / cleanliness of the mouth. A scientific definition of oral hygiene care is defined as the daily habits of removing dental plaque, through brushing, flossing and rinsing, or using other aids. oral hygiene for the prevention of plaque-related diseases. This is important because it focuses on preventing plague rather than just brushing your teeth as the general public assumes. So what and why are plague-related illnesses important?

Dental plague, tooth decay and systemic disease – the link?

Dental plaque is the mass of bacteria or the. yellow-whitish bacterial deposit or biofilm occurring on teeth or on hard oral tissue. This initially sticky colorless deposit, often turns pale yellow or brown when tartar forms between the teeth, behind, in front of the teeth and along the gums, is a key factor in the development of dental caries. Many oral pathologies are linked to plaque. The most common are periodontal disease, dental caries, peri-implantitis and dental caries.

  • Periodontal disease or gum disease is a collection of inflammatory conditions affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth, resulting in bad breath, red and swollen gums, bleeding gums, loose and tender teeth, receding gums and painful chewing. – which eventually cause tooth loss, and the bacteria that cause periodontitis can enter the bloodstream through the gum tissue and can affect the heart, lungs and other parts of the body (causing systemic disease)
  • Dental cavities are small holes in your teeth. They begin with a demineralization of the tooth surface due to acids produced by bacteria. Inflammation of the tissue around the tooth causes infection, abscess formation and loss of teeth and a usual complaint of pain and difficulty eating.
  • Peri-implantitis is a condition occurring in the tissues around dental implants characterized by inflammation of the peri-implant connective tissue and progressive loss of supporting bone.

Additionally, new evidence suggests a direct link between the condition of the mouth, the condition of other body systems, and the transmission of infections throughout the body resulting in secondary systemic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, disease. coronary heart disease, stroke, and bacterial pneumonia. Appropriate oral care becomes especially critical in long-term patients and in immunocompromised people such as the elderly, cancer survivors, etc. In addition, poor oral hygiene also contributes to tooth loss, which in turn leads to poor nutritional intake and weight loss, in the elderly and children with disabilities.

A dentist extracts a tooth from a patient at a dental clinic in Sabanilla near San Jose in this November 1, 2012 file photo - Reuters photo
A dentist extracts a tooth from a patient at a dental clinic in Sabanilla near San Jose in this November 1, 2012 file photo – Reuters photo

Good oral hygiene care is not only essential for the health of patients, but can also significantly reduce hospital costs. Therefore, given the link between oral health and systemic health, oral hygiene should be given a higher priority alongside other daily self-care activities to achieve holistic health care. This is in tandem with a health prevention model that is less expensive than the cure / treatment of cavities and oral pathologies. The US Department of Health emphasizes daily oral hygiene to maintain oral health, which has direct benefits for everyone, young and old, disabled, vulnerable and healthy. Oral hygiene literacy should be strengthened in all segments of society.

General recommendations for self-management of dental hygiene

Here are some general recommendations for good oral hygiene so that everyone can manage themselves in their daily self-care routine:

  • Daily oral hygiene which includes manual removal of plaque (with commercial dental tools, which can be purchased at a drugstore), removal of food between and on teeth with a toothbrush and interdental cleaners for reduce the risk of tooth decay. Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing them once a day can clean the food between your teeth and prevent plaque build-up.
  • The use of toothpaste products containing fluoride or chlorhexidine is recommended to prevent tooth decay
  • It is also essential to maintain healthy gums and oral mucosa, through a daily oral hygiene regimen.
  • Antibacterial mouthwashes can reduce bacteria that cause plague and gum disease
  • Access to a dentist for regular routine care, helps detect and diagnose any problems early, and helps avoid costly and painful procedures.
  • Drinking plenty of water can also help flush out harmful bacteria and food debris, and help fight cavities and gum disease.

Evidence-based oral care practices will prevent secondary systemic disease and improve the quality of life for patients. The interdisciplinary team between various healthcare such as occupational therapists and hygienists / dental practitioners should join together to raise the standards of oral care in long term care facilities in particular. Occupational therapy practitioners have traditionally been responsible for personal care and the treatment of oral conditions, but they have focused more on feeding, eating and swallowing difficulties.

In 2014, high impact research led by Professor Assoc Dr Loh Siew Yim from the Faculty of Medicine and conducted with Professor Assoc Dr Wey and the team from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Malaysia was conducted on long-term patients at the Institution of Tampoi. We found that 543 long-term hospitalized patients (with an average illness duration of 18 years) had an average missing-filled decayed teeth index of 20.5. This figure was almost double the index of missing-filled decayed teeth among the general Malaysian population which was 11.7. An older patient and longer disease duration were associated with a higher index of decayed or missing filled teeth. Of the 543 inmates, only 1% (n = 6) had healthy gums. Periodontal disease and cavities were also more prominent in the 45-64 age group, coinciding with the onset of tooth loss. The study funded by a small, high-impact research fund was published in the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2015.

Malaysians! Brush, floss or brace yourself for loss!

October is officially Oral Health Month or National Dental Hygiene Month in the United States and many other countries. It is celebrated throughout the month to educate, raise awareness, and promote healthy mouths across the country. Brush your teeth and floss, or prepare for tooth loss!

* By Assoc Prof Dr Loh Siew Yim (PhD) and Dr Klarene Ow Kwai Lyn (BDS)

** This is the personal opinion of the author or organization and does not necessarily represent the views of Malaysian courier.


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