The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene

Author: Dr. Alison Vitelli, DMD

I hope you all are staying safe and healthy during these times! As dental professionals, we can’t stress enough the importance of good oral hygiene. Oral hygiene involves more than just brushing your teeth. The tongue and the oropharynx (part of your throat closest to the mouth) are equally important to keep clean. Our tongue is full of taste buds which gives its surface a rough appearance.  Microscopically, taste buds are small finger-like projections, similar to how individual projections will look on a carpet. This anatomical configuration allows for more surface area to be present, so we can taste our food. This increased area provides harboring spots for unwanted bacteria and fungi when not thoroughly cleaned, which in turn produces bad breath, and even, very uncomfortable infections.  As we travel further back to the oropharynx, we find the tonsils, which are an extremely important part of our immune system, as it is a lymph organ that helps fight against infections. Tonsils also have a corrugated appearance to it that sometimes creates little pockets where food and debris can hide.  Some patients can develop tonsillar stones. Fortunately, they are non-malignant, but they do carry a very pungent malodor.  To prevent or decrease these conditions, it is imperative that we keep these surfaces clean. Just brushing your tongue is usually enough, but a tongue scraper is an excellent tool to use when you notice some malodor or when you have a white coating over the top surface of your tongue.  To keep your oropharynx in nice health, I recommend gargling with an antiseptic mouth rinse. Some of these you can find over the counter at your pharmacy. It is your preference on intensity and taste.  Hydrogen peroxide and OraCare (available in our office) are also great options to use. Remember, oral care is not just about your teeth!