Oral health can be a challenge to the average individual, but what happens when the person is further compromised by gastrointestinal diseases with resulting malnutrition, reflux disease, and low immunity, etc.?

Let us first look at a healthy mouth.

Teeth diligently brushed, flossed, cleaned and free of accumulated debris, with pink, tight, healthy gums, along with routine 6 month interval visits to a dentist can help to maintain and sustain a healthy mouth. While this is certainly ideal, it is not necessarily the norm. In most cases, it is an ongoing battle to keep the oral environment healthy and disease free.

First, what happens when we eat? Our mouths are the natural entrance to our bodies for food and nutrition. Once we have food in our mouths, action begins. The salivary glands are called into action as they release enzymes (a chemical compount – alpha-amalase) into the mouth. These digestive enzymes are found in the saliva and as they mix with the food, they begin to breakdown the bolus )a rounded mound of food) to prepare for digestion. Working with the motion of the teeth, the salivary glands are stimulated to produce enough liquid to do the job. The food (if not rushed and simply swallowed), becomes moist and sticks together in a form that is prepared for the journey down the throat, to the stomach onto the duodenum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and continues on. each organ plays a significant and important role in the process of digestion. We, however, will stay at the first site of entrance at the mouth.

Now, after each swallow of solid or liquid, often, invisible, residual food specks cling to the tissues of the mouth and around teeth. This is a continuous, unconscious and unseen operation. Each meal or drink leaves traces of matter behind. What happens to all that remains?

An extremely attentive individual would brush and floss the offending “remains” away, but others, in hast, with haphazard brushing or thhrough neglect, leave the debris, often traces of sugars and starches behind to be added to at the next meal or drink, creating a banquet of leftovers for bacteria to feast on.

Bacteria present in the mouth, attach themselves to these “remains” and feed upon them. This result is a growing colonization of bacteria that forms a sticky film called plaque, which covers the teeth or hides in the crevices of the gums.  These bacteria produce a chemical bi-product that attacks the enamel of the teeth and inflame the gum tissue. Left alone, this sticky film eventually becomes hard and strong, attaching itself firmly to tooth surfaces as it continues its purpose in inflicting structural damage to the teeth. This hard plaque is called tarter or calculus. At this stage, a dental clinician would have to remove the offending matter with specialized instruments becuase simply brushing alone could not free it from its hold.

That same bacteria left feasting on the teeth equally affects gum tissue. Infections of the gum can lead to periodontal disease and ultimately to tooth loss.