When we think of dental hygiene and good oral health, our immediate focus is invariably on our teeth. Of course our teeth a primary component of oral hygiene and they deserve such a priority. However, there’s a lot more going on our mouths and these other various components should be nurtured with just as much loving care as our pearly whites. Let’s take a look at a few of the primary players.
This versatile and powerful muscle is an integral part of both your oral health and your digestive system. Of course it also helps us speak, whistle and conduct any manner of communications (even sticking it out is a universal signal). The tongue is covered in a protective membrane, along with hundreds of tiny taste buds. Keeping your tongue healthy and clean is an essential part of your oral health regimen.
As your dentist will undoubtedly tell you, keeping your gums healthy is equally essential to proper hygiene for your teeth. The gums are a firm, pinkish tissue in which your teeth are rooted. Like the tongue, your gums are also covered with a protective membrane that helps keep harmful bacteria at bay and offers protection against abrasive injury. Brushing and flossing properly will help keep your gums healthy. Your dentist can help with your hygiene further on regular checkups.
Ah, the Uvula – that mysterious little doo-dad that hangs down near the back of your throat. What does it do? What is it for? Honestly, no one is quite sure, but it does share some of the similar traits of the other components of your oral health. For example, the Uvula has the same protective coating as the rest of your mouth and it’s well protected from abrasives and harmful bacteria. It does seem to have a role in keeping moisture levels properly maintained in your mouth, but we don’t know much else.
You can thank your Salivary Glands for all that ‘watering’ that comes along when you sit down to feast upon a ‘mouth-watering’ meal. You have three sets of salivary glands and their job is to produce saliva. The enzymes in your saliva help to break down food, make it easier for us to swallow and helps preserve the mucous membranes protecting the rest of the mouth. Protecting your salivary glands by practicing good oral health is essential to proper hygiene.
As we’ve discussed in the previous sections of this article, most of the tissues in your mouth are coated in a mucous membrane. This protective lining is called the Oral Mucosa. The Oral Mucosa is perhaps one of the most important components of your mouth and your oral health. It is a front line defense for all the parts of your mouth that might otherwise endure injury or infection from foreign irritants and germs. For this reason, it is essential to ensure proper oral care for your entire mouth. The Oral Mucosa gets its strong protectant attributes from the same substance found in your fingernails and hair.
Dr. David Redford is a Dentist and Oral Health Blogger for University Dental Arts