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Maintaining good oral hygiene is a part of general health and prosperity. According to WHO, "Promotion of oral health is a cost effective strategy  to reduce the burden of oral disease and maintain oral health and quality of life".

Unearthings from across the world showed that, from prehistoric times, people used a variety of tools to clean their teeth. Tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones among others were used for maintaining oral hygiene.


In historic times, Indian medicine ( Ayurveda) used neem trees and its products to create twigs for brushing and similar products. Today, we mostly use toothbrushes to do the job. Whatever be the method, cleaning your teeth and keeping your mouth clean, is the first step to starting your day, then and now!

A fresh breath and bright-looking teeth not only look good on you, but also elevate your self-esteem and keep you at bay from dental problems.



  • What is oral hygiene and why is it important?
  • Link between oral health and overall health.
  • Some facts
  • Some tips to maintain good oral health.
  • Conclusion
  • FAQs





It is an act of keeping the mouth and teeth clean to prevent dental problems and promote good oral health. Some of the common oral health problems are dental cavities, gum diseases, and bad breath.

Tooth decay or dental cavity is the most common global disease. Caries(tooth decay) have become a major endemic disease, affecting 60-90% of school children in industrialized countries . It is also not uncommon in teenagers and adults.

Our mouth is a natural harbor for bacteria, mostly harmless. These bacteria interact with carbohydrates(sugars) in the food, producing acids that break the enamel (outer shell of the tooth) and cause cavities.

At this stage, steps can be taken to rebuild the lost enamel and prevent the cavity from progressing into a bigger one. However, if left untreated the acids break the second layer of the tooth (dentin) and this cannot be reversed.

Your dentist will stop further damage with a dental filling. Again, if left untreated at this stage, it reaches the third layer of the tooth (pulp), which requires a more complex, root canal treatment for the tooth.

The other common problem is gum disease, called gingivitis. This is caused by a build-up of plaque which is a thin, pale yellow layer that contains bacteria and is most commonly found around the gum line and between the teeth.

Plaque causes inflammation of the gum or gingivitis. If the plaque is not removed through proper brushing, it hardens into tartar (calculus) and leads to another disease called periodontitis (later stage of gingivitis), where we see a loss of bone, causing the tooth to loosen, in extreme cases, it might have to be removed.

When we eat,tiny food particles get lodged in between the teeth, and the bacteria in the mouth feed on them releasing foul smelling compounds that cause bad breath.

These are some of the problems that stem from poor oral hygiene. But, hang on, there's more.





Did you know that there is a link between oral health and overall health?

1. Poor oral hygiene is associated with various systemic diseases like:

Endocarditis: this is an infection of the inner lining of the heart. Bacteria from the mouth can travel through the bloodstream and lodge in certain areas of your heart and cause endocarditis.

Cardio-Vascular Disease: some studies suggest a link between infections that oral bacteria cause and heart diseases, clogged arteries, and stroke.

Pregnancy Complications: periodontitis is linked to premature birth and low birth weight according to a few researches.

Pneumonia: bacteria in the mouth can travel to the lungs through aspiration and cause pneumonia


Various systemic diseases can have an impact on oral health:

Diabetes: there is a reduced resistance to infection in diabetes, which increases the risk of gum diseases in these people.

HIV/AIDS: this condition is associated with painful mouth ulcers.

Osteoporosis(weakening of bones): it causes bone loss in the jaws and thereby causes tooth loss.

Alzheimer's: some studies indicate that oral hygiene worsens as the disease progresses.



According to World Dental Federation:

  • Oral diseases affect 3.5 billion people world over.
  • It is estimated that 2.3 billion people suffer from tooth decay of permanent teeth.
  • More than 550 million children suffer from tooth decay of primary teeth.
  • Gum disease is among humanity's most common diseases, affecting upto 50% of the global population.






Remove the plaque by brushing the teeth twice a day. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is of a size and shape that reaches all areas easily.

Learn to brush your teeth the right way - hold the toothbrush at an angle (45 degree) to the tooth, with the bristles facing the gum line. Gently, use the up and down motion to remove the plaque.


Avoid these mistakes while brushing:

  • Do not be harsh and take care to not damage your gums while brushing.
  • Do not brush for a longer time. take only 2 minutes to brush each time.



Flossing involves cleaning the areas in between the teeth. This is the area where plaque gets trapped and if not removed regularly can contribute to gum disease. Flossing is fundamental to forestall gum disease.

Dental floss and interdental brushes should be used for this purpose. Floss every day!


How to floss the right way?

  • Take about 18 inches of floss, wind most of it to your right and left middle fingers leaving 1-2 inches to work with
  • Use your thumb and index fingers to hold the floss and slide it gently down the tooth and curve it near the gum line and slowly pull it up along the tooth.
  • Also floss slightly below the gum line.
  • Use clean sections of floss for each tooth.


While beginning to floss, its normal to see some bleeding. it will stop as you get used to it. However if it continues, then it's a sign that you are not doing it properly, so you might want to correct it.



Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride in it. Fluoride is known to prevent the formation of cavities. It also helps in rebuilding the enamel that is lost due to the action of acids.



A mouthwash can be added to the daily brushing and flossing routine. However, remember that it is not a substitute for brushing or flossing. Those suffering from bad breath can use it, as it freshens up the breath. Not only that, mouth wash also helps to remove plaque that is difficult to reach with a brush. Fluoride in the mouthwash can help prevent cavities.

The contents in the mouthwash vary from brand to brand. It is always advisable to follow the instructions given on it while using it.


How to use it?

  • Take the mouthwash in the amount mentioned on it, into your mouth, swish it for 30 seconds and spit it out.
  • Do not use mouthwashes for children below the age of 6yrs unless advised by a dentist.



Limit the intake of high sugary foods. Bacteria in the plaque ferment these sugars and release acids that cause your teeth to decay.



Drink plenty of water. It not only washes away the tiny food particles but also dilutes the acids produced by the bacteria in the mouth.

Avoid brushing immediately after having acidic food or drink. The acids weaken the enamel and brushing right away can remove it.

Replace your toothbrush every 3 months or sooner, if your bristles are irregular and splayed.

Quit smoking, as it increases the risk of gum disease and tooth loss.

Lastly, Visit your dentist at least twice in a year. He/she can check for cavities and treat, since in most cases, there are no symptoms in the initial stage. Gum diseases can be detected and steps can be taken to prevent it from progressing.



Treatment for oral health conditions  is  expensive, in most high income countries dental treatment averages 5% of total health expenditure and many middle and low income countries are unable to provide the treatment.  

But, most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in early stages. Hence, good oral health practices and regular visits to the dentist are key to maintaining good oral hygiene, overall health and quality of life.



1. What is the best way to have good oral hygiene?

Brushing twice a day to remove the plaque, flossing everyday to clean the areas between the teeth and using fluoride toothpaste are three most important preventive steps to take for good oral hygiene.

2. What can poor oral hygiene cause?

Poor oral hygiene leads to plaque build up which is a biofilm of bacteria. Plaque makes your teeth look yellow and the bacteria cause dental cavities, gum diseases and bad breath.

3. What is the purpose of oral hygiene?

By keeping our oral cavity ( mouth) clean, we can prevent dental cavities, gum diseases ( gingivitis,periodontitis) and bad breath (halitosis).

4. Can yellow teeth become white again?

Yes. In most cases by following good oral hygiene, the plaque which is a pale yellow layer is removed, giving your teeth a whiter appearance.

5. How can I whiten my teeth?

  • By Brushing and flossing properly you can remove plaque and make your teeth white.
  • A mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can remove stains on the teeth. Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide to make a paste and use it.
  • You can use activated charcoal to remove stains from the teeth. It also helps in removing bacteria and toxins from the mouth.
  • Coconut oil pulling removes plaque and bacteria from the mouth which helps in whitening the teeth.
  • You can visit a dentist to get teeth whitening treatments done.

Dr.Bhuvana Runkani

Dr.Bhuvana Runkani