BENGALURU:Our parents have consistently told us to brush our teeth every morning and night. Nursery rhymes have demonstrated that “this is the way we brush our teeth,” and textbooks have emphasised the importance of brushing. But nobody told us how ugly can the situation get if oral hygiene is taken for granted.
26-years-old Mala got a tooth ache on her right jaw. She thought painkillers would help subside the pain, but it led to dental cellulitis and the swelling of the gums blocked her passage to the throat. She was unable to eat or drink.
Preliminary investigations diagnosed her with multiple organ dysfunction syndrome as the infection had spread to other organs from her jaws.
Mala suffered from three mild cardiac arrests and became a patient of pneumonia as the fluid from the infection built-up on her body . She had to be on a ventilator for two months.
Her treatment included tracheotomy, which is a surgical procedure where the windpipe is cut on the surface to relieve an obstruction to breathing.
What began as a simple tooth ache turned out to be a grilling clinical procedure for months.
“Following simple and routine oral hygiene check-ups could have helped Mala avoid the challenges that she faced. Oral hygiene is not restricted to one’s teeth alone," says Dr Srivats Bharadwaj, founder and CEO of Vatsalya Dental, who treated Mala.
He adds, "It stays hidden for long, during which your immunity is compromised. Good oral health plays an important role in preventing major health problems such as a heart attack and uncontrolled diabetes stroke among others. Moreover, many medical conditions can be detected as signs and symptoms in the mouth.”
Those on night shifts, beware!
As we grow up, we dismiss oral hygiene as our priority. Caught up with work and assignments, brushing and flossing go for a toss. Those working on a night shifts report more oral problems than those with regular shifts, says Dr Sunil Vasudev, consultant dentist and an expert at Maxillo-facial surgery at Fortis hospital. Dr Sathish Vasishta, consultant cleft and craniomaxillo facial surgeon from Aster CMI hospital says the ratio of night shift patients who come to see him as opposed to day time workers is 70:30.
Twenty-six-year-old Sapna Chowdhury (name changed), who worked nights shift in a bank started falling sick regularly with stomach pain, digestion issues, the usual flu and viral infections. Physicians were unable to find the source of the problem, but they noticed bleeding in gums and found mouth ulcers. When she finally visited the dentist, she was found to have multiple cavities, signs of decay, ulcers and infected gums. This was the reason for her sufferring from one ailment or another.
Her bad oral health was the result of the combination of nocturnal variation of saliva flow rate and her snacking and drinking habits during the night.
“One of the main functions of saliva is cleansing of the food and neutralising acids produced by the bacteria in the mouth. At night, the body automatically reduces the flow of saliva and the cleansing effect of the saliva drops by almost 50-75 per cent,” explains Dr
Bharadwaj. Anything that one eats or drinks while the mouth is dry, sticks onto every part of the teeth, inner lips and gums results in the stagnation of food. This increases the acidic environment in the mouth causing bacterial colonisation or dental plaque, adds Dr Bhardawaj. “When this happens regularly over a period of time, the oral health deteriorates. People who work in the night shift tend to eat through the night without much cleaning process resulting in stagnation of food in the mouth,” he says. Those who work during the day and sleep at night have lesser chance of food particles sticking in the mouth.
The doctors agree that software professionals are at a greater risk of oral health problems because of their night shift and stress. Other professionals susceptive to this are those who work at call centres and investment banks. Even students who pull all-nighters and and munch on snacks till early morning are prone to dental health problems for the same reason. Vinay S (name changed), a 38-year-old who worked in a night shift developed a condition called Temporomandibular Jaw Joint problem, which causes pain in the jaws. It was later found out that Vijay would unintentionally clench his jaws when stressed and developed the condition. The process of oral degeneration takes about a year or two for night shift to take toll on health.
It is advised that those working on a night shift use chewing gums to stimulate the saliva production to avoid drying of oral tissues.
It’s a good practice to gargle with warm salt water.
It is important to drink a lot of water to make sure that your mouth is not dry.
It also bodes well to avoid sticky food, as in a dry mouth even normal food tends to stick more to your teeth.
Brushing two times a day is a must since the reduced saliva flow causes a layer of plaque to be formed on the teeth surface which gets converted into tartar in the long term. It’s not compulsory to use tooth paste every time. Just brushing teeth surface with good tooth brush will help to prevent formation of plaque .
Ideally one should try to eat something by 7:30- 8:00pm and not to eat anything else through the night.
Rinse your mouth thoroughly after eating anything