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Maintaining good oral and general health requires us to keep the bad bacteria out of our bodies. Many of us have bad habits carried over from childhood that introduce us Cosmetic Dentist Marielaina Perrone DDSto harmful bacteria throughout our days.

The Dirty Dozen

1. Fingernails – Throughout the course of the day, our hands come in contact with a lot of dirty items. It is recommended we wash our hands before we eat and throughout our day to avoid catching colds or the flu. However, even hand washing can miss bacteria that lurks under the fingernails. This bacteria can easily be introduced into the body through the mouth when biting our nails. The best thing to do is to quit the habit, but it you are unable to, try to keep your nails as clean as possible, use a nail brush and pay extra attention to them when washing your hands.

2. Cigarettes, Cigars, Pipes (and tobacco products in general) –  smoking makes the list for the pure danger it is to our oral and overall health. Smoking  brings nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide into our mouths and bodies. Tobacco use is a leading cause in the development of oral cancer.

3. Soda Cans - Who hasn’t wiped a can off with a towel before drinking from it? The answer is, most of us! Think of all the people who handle cans and all of the dirty places a can may have been in, and now take a minute to clean it off before putting your mouth on it.  The top of a can is just a dirty place chock full of bacteria.

4. Pens/Pencils – This is a childhood habit that unfortunately continues into adulthood for many. Kids in school love to play with pens and pencils while at their desk idling away the hours at school. So the pens go from back pack to desk to falling on the floor and into our mouths and they are never cleaned. A good tip is to wipe down pens and pencils with an antibacterial wipe.

5. Double Dipping At A Party, and Birthday Cake - If someone double dips into a dip at a party they are introducing bacteria into the dip. This bacteria will then get passed onto everyone else that samples that dip throughout the evening. Now, think about how most people blow out birthday candles. They are pretty much, spitting all over the cake, especially kids. This will not only contribute to possible foodborne illnesses but also transmission of bacteria from person to person. A suggestion, take a lit candle off the cake and blow it out away from the direction of the cake.

6. Kissing –  The bacteria responsible for periodontal disease and tooth decay is transferrable. Luckily, by the time we are adults we have already been exposed to most of this type of bacteria. Obviously, this will not stop us from kissing our loved ones but be smart and proactive. Avoid kissing someone who is sick with a cough, a runny nose, or poor oral hygiene.

7. Toothbrushes – Studies have found that flushing the toilet can spew bathroom-related bacteria into the air. For this reason, it is a good idea to store your toothbrush in a cabinet, or covered, and far away from the potential contaminants.

Cosmetic Dentist Marielaina Perrone DDS8. Water Bottle – Keeping healthy also means staying hydrated and drinking plenty of refreshing water. However, if you are using a reusable plastic water bottle you should be aware coliform (example E. coli) bacteria can coat the inside of the plastic bottle if not cleaned properly. Choose a wide-mouthed bottle for easier cleaning and drying, and choose a hard material that won’t get scratched during vigorous cleaning (example stainless steel). Along with regular washing, soak in a solution of bleach and water for two minutes once per week (and rinse and dry completely). As a side note, BPA is released from plastic bottles into the water, especially when the bottle gets heated, such as when left in the hot car or delivery truck. Try drinking from BPA free containers or glass.

9. Sharing Lipstick, Chapstick etc. – Whether it is sharing with friends or trying on a lipstick at the makeup counter. The bacteria, and viral buildup can be immense. Herpes can be transferred easily in this way. It is far safer to try the lipstick sample on the back of your hand to see its color.

10. Bar Snacks – These are notorious for being chock full of bacteria. Hand after hand reaching into the bowl. Many of those hands being unwashed especially after frequent trips to the bathroom. Steer clear of bar snacks unless you see the bartender put a fresh bowl out and you are the first one to indulge.

11. Biting off Tags, and Tearing Open Packages with Teeth - This may seem like an unlikely part of the list but clothing, and other items with tags,  ketchup packets, chip bags, etc. have been handled by many dirty hands. Most of us do not hesitate to put a bacteria ridden ketchup packet between our teeth and rip it open. There are so many items we place into our mouths without ever even thinking about how potentially dirty they could be.

12. Eating Food Off The Floor – Last but certainly not least, do not follow the 3 second rule! Any food that hits the floor should be thrown away. The floor is one of the dirtiest places in any location.

Conclusion

After reading the above list I’m sure you’ll think of quite a few other potentially dirty items that you may have exposed yourself to. Think about your hygiene, and the cleanliness of all items that go in your mouth, and you will keep yourself happier and healthier.

Everyone knows the basic structures of the mouth including your teeth and gums. But there is more to your mouth than just those two anatomical parts. This means

Maintain Oral Health - Marielaina Perrone DDS

Anatomical Structures of the Mouth

maintaining good oral hygiene goes beyond just your teeth and gums.  In addition to your teeth and gums, your mouth is made up oral mucosa, the upper (maxilla) and lower (mandibular) jaw, the tongue, salivary glands, the uvula, and the frenulum. All of these structures play an important role when it comes to good oral health and are regularly examined by your dentist when you receive dental care.

Anatomical Structures of the Mouth

- Oral Mucosa. When you look in your mouth everything that is not a tooth is the oral mucosa. The oral mucosa is a protective lining and includes the gum tissues. This lining is very similar to the lining in your nostrils and inner ears. The oral mucosa plays a very large and essential role in maintaining your oral health. It is also important in maintenance of your overall health by defending against germs and other irritants that come into your mouth. The oral mucosa has a tough component called keratin. Keratin (also found in fingernails and hair) helps keep the oral mucosa protected from injury.

-Gums or gingival tissue. Your gums are the pink, attached, colored tissue that envelops and supports your teeth. Also covered by oral mucosa, gums play a critical role in your oral health. Healthy gums are firm, cover the entire root of the tooth, and do not bleed when brushed, flossed, or probed. Diseased gum tissue, or Periodontal disease can ultimately progress to tooth loss. This makes it essential to take care of your gums by flossing daily and brushing regularly.

-Upper (Maxilla) and Lower (Mandible) Jaws. Your jaws are an essential structure of the mouth and face. The jaws give your face its shape and are the structures holding your teeth. They are needed for chewing and speech. The Upper jaw or Maxilla is made up of two bones fused together and then to the rest of the skull. The lower jawbone (mandible) is separate from the rest of the skull which allows it to move up and down, and side to side in your jaw joint (TMJ) when you speak and chew.

-The Tongue.  This is an extremely strong muscle covered in specialized mucosal tissue that also includes the taste buds. The tongue is unique in that it truly plays a dual role in our health. The tongue plays an integral role in the ability to speak. It does this by allowing people to shape the sounds that come from your mouth. It’s other role is being a part of the body’s digestive system. The tongue is responsible for moving food over to your teeth and following chewing, the tongue moves to the back of the throat so it can force it down to continue on its path thru swallowing. In infants the tongue and jaw work as one to allow the infant to breastfeed.

-Salivary Glands. There are three different major salivary glands in your mouth and neck. These are the parotid, sub mandibular, and the sub lingual glands. There are also smaller, or minor salivary glands in your hard palate, soft palate, and inner lip. These glands are responsible for producing saliva. Saliva is critical to maintaining good oral health. It functions in the following ways:

1) Breakdown of food. Saliva contains special enzymes that help break down food. This makes it easier for you to digest your food.

2)Lubrication. Saliva aides in swallowing food by acting as a carrier of foods out of the mouth and into the throat. Saliva also keeps gums and teeth from drying out. This constant lubrication makes it more difficult for bacteria to stick and stay, and helps keep teeth and gums clean.

3) Protection of teeth and gums. Saliva is able to offer protection of teeth and gums by rinsing away food and bacteria. It is also able to neutralize acids or acidic foods that can wear down your teeth causing tooth cavities.

-The Uvula. The uvula is the small flap of tissue which hangs down at the back of your throat. The uvula is made up of muscle fibers as well as connective and glandular tissues. The uvula is covered by oral mucosa. The uvula’s functions are not fully understood as of yet. However, it seems to play some role in speech and in keeping the mouth and throat moist.

-The Frenulum Linguae. The frenulum or frenum, is an attachment of oral mucosa that connects and pulls two areas together. There is one major frenum attachment above your two front teeth connecting your lip to the adjacent gums, another major one is under the tongue attaching it to the floor of the mouth. There can be any number of minor frenum attachments from lip to gum or cheek to gum.  Children can be born with a frenulum that is too short, or not elastic enough, keeping the tongue almost tied down. This can  affect speech as the tongue is not able to protrude as far as necessary. A short frenum can also affect swallowing and feeding in babies.

Take notice the next time you are brushing your teeth, spend a minute looking at the parts of the mouth that lie farther inside the oral cavity. Knowing what these structures do and what they look like can help you to maintain optimal oral health, and notice changes that can occur. Your self awareness can help you point changes out to your dentist, and find out why they have occurred. As always, see your dentist regularly and have an open line of communication to ensure that your mouth is it’s healthiest!