Oral Hygeine

Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping one’s oral cavity πŸ‘„ free of disease and other health issues. It should be performed on a regular basis in order to avoid dental disease and other health complications. As such, it helps to improve the quality of life. In this article we will endeavour to explain what oral hygiene is, ways of practicing oral hygiene, effects of poor oral hygiene and importance of good oral hygiene πŸ‘„. Within each section you will find an explicit summary to help you retain the key points❗



  1. Introduction
  2. Ways of practicing good oral hygiene πŸ‘„
  3. Effects of poor oral hygiene πŸ‘„
  4. Importance of good oral hygiene πŸ‘„
  5. Conclusion

What is oral hygiene?

 Oral health is often overlooked but is an important aspect of our daily lives

 Oral hygiene is the act of keeping one's oral cavity, teeth, and gums clean and safe in order to avoid disease βŒ

This basically involves teeth brushing, use of mouth wash, interdental cleaning, choice of healthy foods, good lifestyle behaviours and booking regular appointments with a dentist πŸ₯

 Poor oral hygiene poses a very high risk for oral diseases, which is a major health burden in many countries πŸŒ

 Globally, it is estimated that over 3.4 billion people have oral diseases, with untreated dental caries (tooth decay) being the most common (more than 530 million children suffers from dental caries of primary teeth globally) 🌍

 More than 10% of the global population is affected by periodontal diseases (gum diseases) which can lead to tooth loss πŸ‘„

 Oral diseases share some common risk factors with other non-communicable diseases and can also lead to a major disease

 Most oral diseases are highly preventable and can be treated effectively in their early stages βœ…

 However low and middle income countries are unable to provide effective services for prevention and also treatment of oral diseases, which has largely contributed  to the rising percentage of oral health conditions globally πŸŒ


Oral hygiene involves keeping the oral cavity, teeth and gum in a good condition in order to improve the quality of life and prevent dental diseases, which is a global health burden.


Ways of practicing good oral hygiene

  1. Brush properly twice daily

 Many people brush just once (morning) and some people don't brush properly

 Brushing at night helps to remove germs and plaque that accumulate through out the day πŸŒ™

 Not brushing properly is as bad as not brushing at all, so using a proper technique by gently moving your brush in a circular motion to remove germs and also brushing the back, front and top of the teeth for at least 2 minutes in total, can help in effectively removing germs and plaques β°

 Brushing the tongue in a back to front motion helps to refresh one's breath, remove food particles and bacteria causing infection

 Brush gently to prevent injury to the gum and oral mucosa

 Change your brush every 3 months or earlier if the brush looks worn out πŸ“…

  1. Choice of toothbrush

A toothbrush is an essential part of oral hygiene β—

 The choice of toothbrush is important to prevent injury during brushing and for effective brushing πŸ˜’

 When choosing a toothbrush, it is advisable to get one whose head is easy to maneuver so as to clean certain areas which are hard to reach

 Consider picking toothbrush with a round and soft bristle

 Pick a long enough handle which you can easily handle πŸ–

  1. Choice of toothpaste

 The choice of toothpaste is really important β—

 No matter the type of toothpaste used, make sure it contains fluoride

 Fluoride is a natural mineral helps to protect the teeth against dental caries by fighting germs which lead to caries, forming a protective wall for the teeth thereby, making the teeth stronger and unlikely to suffer from acid damage produced by bacteria πŸ’ͺ

 Fluoride also helps to mineralize the teeth especially the part affected by bacteria

 Some people might prefer a tartar preventing toothpaste or a whitening toothpaste but in all cases, make sure fluoride is present in the toothpaste even if you live in area where the water is fluoridated πŸ’§

  1. Floss correctly

 Flossing helps to remove debris, bacteria and plaques between the teeth since a tooth brush is unable to get there, this helps to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum diseases β¬‡

 To effectively benefit from teeth flossing, you need to use proper flossing method 

 Since your fingers will get into your mouth during flossing, it is important to wash your hands properly before flossing πŸ–

 Use approximately 18 inches of floss; this is important so as to have a clean piece of floss for each tooth, also don't forget to floss the back side of your teeth 

 Any type of floss can be use depending on your preference as long as you follow the correct technique βœ…

 Make sure you floss each side of your teeth and also your gum line, since food particles can be hidden there

 It is important to use the floss gently in order to prevent injuries βŒ

  1. Use of mouthwash (oral rinse)

 Using mouthwash does not replace proper brushing and flossing, rather it helps in a synergistic manner to reduce the risk of tooth decay, gum diseases and bad breath βŒ

 It usually helps to kill bacteria in places where your brush and floss can not get to βœ…

 Some type of mouthwash contains fluoride, which helps to strengthen the enamel

 It is important to use the right amount of oral rinse as directed by the dentist or label πŸ₯

 Swish vigorously for 30-60 seconds and spit out the mouth wash β°

  1. Choice of food for good oral health

 Reduce intake of acidic and sugary foods πŸ­

 Acidic fruits and foods such as vinegar or fruit juice can wear down tooth enamel 

 Sugary foods which is converted to acid in the mouth by bacteria can also erode the enamel, creating a suitable environment for bacteria to act, causing tooth decay and gum diseases πŸ­

 Increase intake of oral beneficial food β¬†

 Food containing calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C such as milk, cheese, nut, chicken and fatty fish helps in remineralization of the teeth

 Teas which are rich in polyphenols such as green tea, helps to reduce the effect of oral bacteria, therefore helps in maintaining optimal oral health  β¬‡

 Fiber containing food like vegetables helps in increase production of saliva, which neutralizes acids present in the oral cavity and also remineralize the teeth πŸŒ½

  1. Good lifestyle behaviors

 Smoking and alcohol intake can adversely affect the oral cavity and teeth πŸ»

 Smoking cigarettes can cause or contribute to mouth cancer, smoker's palate, delayed wound healing, dental caries, dental abrasions, stained teeth, smokers breath, gum diseases and wide range of soft tissue changes πŸš¬

 Quitting can greatly reduce the risk of oral diseases β¬‡

 Alcohol may stain the teeth, increase risk of gum diseases, dental caries, mucosal lesion and dental erosion. It also reduces production of saliva πŸ»

 So it is advisable to reduce intake or abstain in order to maintain optimal oral health

  1. Drinking of water

 Dinking water is always good for oral hygiene especially if the water is fluoridated πŸ’§

 Water helps to wash off left over foods and residues here by preventing tooth and periodontal diseasesπŸ’§

 Drinking water with fluoride helps to prevent dental caries and cavities and helps to remineralize the teeth

 Water also helps to dilute the acids produce by oral bacteria and prevent dry mouth which is a risk of dental decay

  1. Visit your dentist at least twice a year

 Following the above oral hygiene practices should be capped with a visit to the dentist at least twice a year πŸ“…

 The dentist helps examine the oral cavity and teeth thoroughly in order to remove calculus, spot potential issues and offer appropriate treatment


Brushing properly twice daily, picking the right choice of toothpaste, toothbrush and food, flossing properly, use of mouthwash, good lifestyle behaviours, drinking of water and regular visit to the dentist are ways of practicing good oral hygiene in order to  prevent dental diseases and achieve optimum health condition.


Effects of poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is usually failure of a person to practice good oral hygiene. This can lead to oral diseases, systemic diseases and also negative psychological effect of the person.

Consequences of poor oral hygiene are:

  1. Tooth decay

 Tooth decay which is also known as dental caries is the damage to the structure of the teeth and can lead to a hole or cavity in the teeth

 It is caused by acids generated from the break down of sugar or sugary foods in the mouth by bacteria πŸ­

 If left untreated, it can lead to infection, severe tooth pain and tooth loss πŸ˜–

 It is important to visit the dentist as soon as possible if you have any toothache πŸ˜–

  1. Gingivitis

 Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gum, leading to red, swollen and painful gum which may bleed during brushing or flossing πŸ˜–

 It is caused by irritation of the gum by toxins produced by bacteria which are present in plaques (a film that coats the teeth and contains bacteria)

 Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis if left untreated, which is a serious disease of the gum and can lead to jawbone destruction and tooth loss β—

 It is advisable to see a dentist early, to check for symptoms and for early diagnosis, so as to offer a prompt and appropriate treatment for easy reversibility of the gum disease πŸ₯

  1. Mouth ulcers/sores

 Mouth ulcers occur as a result of poor hygiene or trauma from not brushing properly

 They are oval inflamed lesions with a red outer edge that occurs in the oral mucosa of the cheeks, lips and also tongue edges πŸ‘„

 Some are not painful or mildly painful, so can be easily ignored or unnoticeable, while others are really painful especially when in touch with an irritant

 Most mouth ulcer clears up in two weeks without medical care, however if the ulcer is persistent for more than 2 weeks, a dentist should be seen as soon as possible β° 

  1. Bad breath

 Bad breath is also called halitosis

 It is a condition where a person emanates unpleasant odour from the mouth πŸ‘„

 Poor oral hygiene is a major cause of halitosis due to build up of bacteria in the mouth πŸ‘„

 Halitosis can be caused by other health problems and can be made worse by your choice of food or unhealthy lifestyle behavior

 Food begins to break down in the mouth, so taking food with unpleasant strong odours that are not easily removed by brushing or flossing can cause bad breath

  1. Heart disease

 Bacteria that causes oral diseases can move through the blood vessel to the heart, causing infection of the inner lining (endocardium) of the heart, which eventually leads to endocarditis (inflammation of the endocardium) πŸ’—

 Clogging of arteries due to inflammation of oral bacteria, can lead to atherosclerosis and stroke

 People with chronic gum diseases have high risk of having cardiac complications from poor oral health πŸ‘„

  1. Dementia

 Bacteria in the oral cavity can get to the brain through blood vessels or nerve channel since there are several blood vessels and nerves that connect the oral cavity to the brain πŸ§ 

 This eventually leads to Alzheimer's disease, which is a common cause of dementia πŸ§ 

 Gum diseases also increases risk of dementia πŸ§ 

  1. Respiratory disease

 Movement of bacteria from the oral cavity to the lungs by inhalation of some bacteria on tiny droplet of saliva can lead to infection and inflammation of the lungs πŸ‘„

 Normally, healthy lungs have protective mechanism to curb the effect of the bacteria, however disease damaged lungs or people with persistent lung pathology or immune compromised patient will be highly affected by the bacteria 

 Gum diseases tend to worsen inflammatory conditions of the respiratory system such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) causing more severe frequent symptoms and damage to the lungs πŸ‘„

  1. Oral cancer

 Regular visit to the dentist which is a way of practicing good oral hygiene, can make oral cancer, if present, be diagnosed and treated early to prevent further complications

 People with poor oral health condition are more susceptible to viruses which can lead to oral cancer πŸ‘„

 Intake of alcohol and smoking can also increase risk of oral cancer πŸ»

  1. Poor pregnancy outcome

 Poor oral hygiene during pregnancy has been associated with preterm delivery, low birth weight and also dental caries in infant in mothers with high level of cariogenic bacteria

 It is important to be very cautious of your oral health especially during pregnancy πŸ€°

  1. Social and psychological issues

 Poor oral hygiene which has led to bad breath, tooth loss, and gum disease can cause a negative psychological effect on a person such as low self esteem, depression, and social withdrawal πŸ˜”


Poor oral hygiene is associated with several health conditions. These include: oral health conditions such as tooth decay, gingivitis, mouth sores, oral cancers and bad breath; systemic conditions such as heart disease, dementia and respiratory disease, poor pregnancy outcome and also psychological issues.


Importance of good oral hygiene

The mouth is said to be the doorway to your overall wellbeing. Taking care of your teeth and gums improperly will result in a number of health issues. Oral hygiene is crucial to prevent tooth loss, gum disease, heart disease, diabetes and other complications from oral diseases. Therefore, maintaining good oral hygiene is critical for one's oral health and overall wellbeing πŸ˜Œ

The importance of good oral hygiene practices are:

  1. Overall wellbeing

 The mouth serves as a good view to detect early symptoms of some systemic diseases such as diabetes which causes oral sores or ulcer and gum infection πŸ‘„

 Aside of being a vantage point for detection of disease, studies have shown that poor oral hygiene have led to some systemic diseases, such as bacterial pneumonia, infective endocarditis, pregnancy complications, coronary artery diseases, cancer and sepsis

 Practicing good oral hygiene practices can help to prevent these health conditions βœ…

  1. Early detection of oral diseases

 Regular visit to the dentist at least twice per year, can help to improve oral health βœ…

 The dentist examines and evaluates the oral cavity to detect any oral condition or health complication caused by oral diseases πŸ‘„

 Early detection of oral conditions and appropriate management helps to prevent further complications and help to improve the quality of life 

  1. Prevents tooth loss

 Poor oral hygiene can lead to the build up of plaques which causes dental caries and eventually lead to cavities and tooth loss πŸ‘„

 Plaques can also cause severe gum infection, which can lead to tooth loss

 Regular and proper flossing and brushing with regular visit to the dentist, put the teeth in top shape and prevent tooth loss βœ… 

  1. Oral treatment plan

 Oral health conditions and dental alignment differ from person to person

 Regular visit to the dentist enable the dentist to create an oral care schedule for each patient, depending on their need πŸ₯

 While some patient might be suffering from dental caries, cavities, tooth loss and gum diseases, others might be uncomfortable about their teeth alignment

 Hence, this makes the dentist to have a plan to create a very good oral health condition for the patient, while ensuring good oral health and hygiene πŸ‘„

  1. To have a white and bright teeth

 Poor oral hygiene leads to accumulation of plaques on the teeth which can eventually lead to calculus πŸ‘„

 Calculus is a colored deposit that forms on the teeth and it is usually hard to remove and most times causes coloring of the teeth, preventing it from looking neat πŸ‘„

 Smoking cigarette and alcohol intake can leave stains on the teeth πŸš¬

 Practicing good oral hygiene therefore prevents all this and makes the teeth whiter and brighter βœ… 


Good oral health and overall wellbeing is as a result of practicing good oral hygiene.



  1. The human body is made up of an intricate system of interacting components. Because of the way the human body is constructed, one part of the body may have an effect on other parts.
  2. Take the mouth and teeth, for example. When your teeth and gums are in bad shape due to poor oral hygiene, it can cause complications in other parts of your body. Oral hygiene problems can lead to respiratory disease, heart disease, and other health problems which reduce the quality of life.
  3. It is critical to maintain good oral hygiene in order to avoid these health problems. People should start practicing good oral hygiene habits at a young age.
  4. Regular dental visits, proper brushing, proper flossing, keeping a close eye on what you eat and other ways of practicing good oral hygiene are all essential steps in avoiding dental diseases and maintaining good health.

By Innocent Chijioke 

About the author

The i-medics Editorial Team consists of Doctors, Medical Students, Professional Content writers, i-medics Ambassadors and Freelance workers.