October is National Dental Hygiene Month (NDHM), with the goal of increasing awareness about the importance of maintaining proper oral hygiene. Surprisingly, many people do not appreciate the full impact that oral care has on overall health.
Case in point: a question was recently posted on the popular online question-and-answer site Quora regarding the validity of brushing. It asks, “For hundreds of thousands of years, humans did not brush their teeth. What happens if I stop altogether? At what point does my mouth start to take care of itself?”
To many in the dental industry, the question may seem a bit naïve, as the benefits of proper oral hygiene are obvious. Some of the answers to the Quora post are decidedly tongue-in-cheek. But a few dental professionals weighed in with their thoughts as well. One response by a former periodontist explains that “asking at what point your mouth starts to take care of itself is like asking at what point your body will start to take care of itself if you stop eating. Good luck with that.”
He goes on to say, “Discontinuing oral hygiene will dramatically raise your risk for decay and periodontal disease. For the average person I’d give you 1-5 years before you regret your decision. And about a week until your breath smells like a disposal.”
One respondent disputed the phrasing of the question itself, claiming that humans (even Neanderthals) have cared for their teeth since time immemorial. They just used what tools were available to them, like thin sticks or stalks of grass to serve as toothpicks. Another commenter pointed out that the human diet has evolved in modern times to contain excessive amounts of refined sugar, which is far more destructive to teeth than anything in ancient man’s diet.
As any dentist will attest, there are still far too many people out there who simply don’t take oral care seriously. NDHM was established seven years ago to help raise awareness on the topic. After all, no one wants Neanderthal teeth.