Brush and floss, at least twice a day. It’s advice we’ve probably heard all our lives, starting from the time we were little kids. But let’s face it…
Sometimes things get in the way of caring for your mouth the way you should. Sometimes life gets in the way with the hundreds upon hundreds of tasks you have to complete just to keep your world spinning. Sometimes — not often — a pandemic throws a great big kink in everything and you forget to brush here and there.
And what’s the harm, really? So you skip a full day of brushing and flossing. Are your teeth going to fall out?
Well, considering that since the pandemic, all kinds of reports have swirled about “mask mouth” and how people are putting off dental visits — not to mention that being at home more is the perfect opportunity to allow good habits to slip — some researchers decided to see what happens when you don’t follow your daily dental hygiene routine.
And the results may shock you…
An aging oral microbiome
The research led by a combined team of scientists from Single-Cell Center, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Procter & Gamble followed 40 participants.
At the beginning of the study, all participants were already living with some level of gingivitis (early gum disease).
So, to even things out, the researchers had them ramp up their dental hygiene (yup, the old brush and floss routine) for three solid weeks. That reduced the gingivitis and got them all on a level playing field.
Then, the researchers spent the next four weeks randomly asking all of the participants to skip out on their dental hygiene routine for anywhere from 24 to 72 hours at a time.
And when they checked out their mouths, they found that in as little as one day of not brushing and flossing, they ended up with changes in their oral microbiome (the population of good and bad bacteria in your mouth) that can kick of periodontitis — severe gum disease that can lead to tooth damage or even tooth loss.
In fact, according to the researchers, a single interruption of oral hygiene of 24 to 72 hours actually ages your mouth!
They found that just one month of skipping out on brushing and flossing regularly resulted in a reduction of the good bacteria and an overgrowth of bad bacteria that aged the oral microbiome by a full year!
It also activated inflammatory cytokines and reduced the anti-inflammatory chemical betaine. Basically, the inflammation in the mouth and gums was set on a course to the moon!
No wonder the participants all once again ended up with gingivitis by the time the study was over.
And imagine what would have happened if they had continued to put their oral hygiene on the backburner.
Gingivitis is reversible
Luckily, there is good news in all of the bad and downright scary of the study’s results.
Although the people in the study developed gingivitis and inflammation and aged their oral microbiome in just four weeks, a restart of good oral hygiene practices turned all of that around. In a nutshell, poor dental hygiene is reversible and so is gum disease.
This means that if you’ve been a little less than diligent about your own oral health, simply starting now and incorporate that twice a day brushing and flossing could do wonders towards taking back the health of your gums, restoring your oral microbiome, and reversing that aging process.
What else can help?
Fortifying your body’s overall microbiome. You probably already know you can do that by eating probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods, but a new trend that specifically focuses on the mouth is drinking nutritional greens powder mixes and swishing the mouth a couple of times before swallowing. Look for one that preferably contains a probiotic blend.
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