During the Coronavirus pandemic, it is a great time to learn more about the connection between hand washing and oral health. Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important things you should do for your overall and oral health. You must have heard plenty of times how to wash your hands properly and why it is important to your dental hygiene routine. Few quick facts you should know about hand wash:
- Thorough frequent handwashing with soap and water can protect you and others from a range of infectious diseases. Especially during Covid times.
- Note that liquid soap is better than bar soap, especially at work.
- Washing your hands with soap and water is much better than using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- After a hand wash, dry your hands thoroughly.
How Does Hand Wash Work to Fight Diseases?
Washing hands rids your hands of viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that can lead to disease. These microorganisms, when they enter your digestive system, can create havoc. But you need to understand that hand wash needs to be done the right way. A simple rinsing of your hands does not do the trick. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, to eliminate dangerous pathogens successfully, you should strictly follow the following steps.
1 Wet your hands with clean, running water. The water could be warm or cold. Then turn off the tap, and apply soap.
2 Lather your hands properly by rubbing them together with the soap for a few seconds. Also, lather between your fingers, at the back of your hands and under your nails.
3 Then, scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Do you need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
4 Then, rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
5 After washing, dry your hands using a clean towel or an air dry.
If you follow these above steps, it will allow the necessary time for the soap to do the work. By not washing your hands you can permit harmful bacteria to make you and others sick.
Bacteria and Your Mouth
Your oral microbiome comprises all the bacteria, including their genes that live in your mouth. Do you know that there are about 700 different species of bacteria in your mouth that influence your health?
In your oral microbiome, there are also healthy bacteria that protect your mouth by fighting tooth decay. However, alongside these healthy bacteria are harmful bacteria as well. These bacteria lead to all kinds of oral problems like cavities and disease.
Together, they create a community called biofilm, dental plaque, that can lead to oral decay in the long run. Remember that reducing the number of bacteria that impacts your oral microbiome only starts with simple handwashing.
What are biofilms? Your oral cavity harbors hundreds of microbial species that are present in the form of biofilms. These microbes have evolved a unique survival strategy as they form biofilms. Many microbes associate together to form communities which are complex matrix-like structures known as biofilms.
These biofilms are dense micro-communities that grow on inert surfaces and slowly surround them with their secretions. The biofilm structure and their gene structure can protect the microbes from disinfectant agents or antibiotics. Thus the resultant biofilm can pose a serious health issue in your mouth.
Your oral cavity has diverse biofilms. Dental plaque is one such example. Dental plaque is basically a poly-microbial biofilm in your mouth that can cause human infections, such as dental cavities and periodontal disease. Once these oral biofilms start to develop in your mouth, it can directly damage the soft and the hard tissues.
Due to their physical nature, these biofilms are very dangerous, and you need to be extra careful while washing your hands. So you can, by all means, prevent the entry of these harmful microbes into your mouth.
Hand Wash Helps Prevent Spread of Infectious Diseases
Do you know that a number of infectious diseases can be easily spread from one person to another by contaminated hands? Some of these diseases include respiratory infections such as influenza, gastrointestinal infections such as salmonellosis, and colds and coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you wash your hands properly with soap and water, it can help prevent the spread of germs. Most of these bacteria and viruses can cause most of the oral and other diseases.
Some forms of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections can cause serious complications, especially for young children. It can also cause issues with elderly or those with a weakened immune system.
Unhealthy Diets Lead to an Imbalance in Healthy vs Harmful Bacteria
There is a lot of hype about the secrets of the microbiome. But did you know there is a whole universe of good and bad bacteria that only inhabit your mouth? Interestingly this small ecosystem can have a big impact on your overall health.
It is important to understand that from a health perspective, your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body. So if pathogens overgrow inside your mouth, they can easily be transferred to your blood vessels and then to the distant parts of your body.
The balance between your healthy and harmful bacteria can become imbalanced. When the balance between these bacteria shifts because of your poor diet, poor oral hygiene and other oral health issues – then it becomes an issue. If left unchecked, these harmful bacteria start to take over in your mouth; the result will be really bad. It could lead to dental problems like gum disease, bad breath, cavities, tooth loss and sickness.
As a matter of fact, your oral health can have far-reaching effects not only on your dental health but on your total body health. How? Inflammation from oral bacteria or periodontal disease could damage the tiny blood vessels in your gums and can enter your bloodstream.
Your body already has many systems in place to manage these external germs. Sometimes these harmful germs are associated with a number of diseases and conditions as they reach various organs. On the other hand, health problems happening in your body can influence your oral health as well.
This is a very complex process. As the inflammation from pathogens or periodontal disease damages the tiny blood vessels in your gums, oral bacteria will just take seconds to enter your bloodstream. Oral bacteria has been linked with issues like heart disease, diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression.
Hand Wash – Why is it Important?
Remember washing your hands regularly is not just good hygiene. It is responsible living, not only for yourself but also for you and your family around you. Without washing your hands, you could spread the dangerous bacteria around.
When you use the restroom, you should always make it a practice to wash your hands afterwards. You should positively use warm water and soap. Make a good lather with the soap all over your hands and even underneath your fingernails. Scrub for about 20 seconds to make sure you have removed all the germs from your hands.
You should always use soap and water to wash your hands as it will remove substantially more disease-causing organisms than washing hands with water alone. If soap causes skin irritation to your skin, then you can use another kind of soap.
It is useful to note that soaps can have different pH. They can be neutral, slightly alkaline or slightly acidic. Sometimes the perfumes used in the soap may also cause irritation. Changing your soap may help reduce irritation.
Note that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective against some viruses like coronavirus. However they are not effective against other viruses. Hence washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent infection. So it is best to wash hands with soap and water. If unavailable, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol.
Moreover, if anyone in your family has a cold or other illness, it’s especially important to be vigilant about washing your hands so that the germ does not spread. If you can not always wash your hands, keep a small container of antibacterial hand sanitizer with you to help kill germs on your hands when you are out.
Taking care of your oral health should become part of your daily routine. Following a regular hygiene routine by caring for your healthy teeth, hands and body can improve your looks and help you to be much healthier.
As research continues, scientists are finding new methods for maximizing the health of the microbiome in your mouth so that they are not easily affected by the germs from your hand. For example, certain foods or probiotics may make a difference. Hence you need to eat fruits and vegetables that can prevent the bad bacteria from developing.
If you practice good dental care – it is critical to keep your oral ecosystem healthy, along with preventing tooth cavities and gum disease. Brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing once a day is a good start. And using an antimicrobial mouthwash can help further reduction of gingivitis and plaque.