jhorrocks/Getty Images Oral health is more important than many people realize and goes beyond having a set of clean, shiny teeth. Social anxi
Oral health is more important than many people realize and goes beyond having a set of clean, shiny teeth. Social anxieties connected with halitosis, colloquially known as bad breath, are not uncommon. Moreover, the condition of one’s mouth, teeth and gums can be an indicator of overall health. Poor oral hygiene is a risk factor for many other health problems. Oral health has been linked to several health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and eating disorders.
Therefore, it appears a sensible idea to stay on top of keeping your mouth clean, if not for the sake of those around you, for the sake of your overall health. Conveniently, new portable digital health devices might be able to help you with this task.
Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health
Many factors contribute to the healthy state of your mouth, and things that you do (or do not do) influence the growth of bacteria on your teeth and gums. Many will be fine with standard daily tooth brushing and flossing, but sometimes there are other things — not necessarily within one's control — that play a role as well. For instance, certain medications such as painkillers, antihistamines, and diuretics can make your mouth dry and affect the quality of your breath. A lowered immune system is another factor outside of oral hygiene that can contribute to oral health problems because of the body's reduced ability to regulate bacteria during times of illness.
Oral microbiota—one of the most varied floras in the entire human body—has also been connected to various systemic diseases. In some cases, bacteria found in tooth plaque can cause endocarditis (a life-threatening inflammation of the heart muscle) if it enters the bloodstream. Studies show that good oral hygiene can prevent this condition.
Good mouthwashes, for example, can kill organisms that cause bacterial endocarditis and protect patients who are at risk.
Getting a sufficient amount of fluids can ward off many health issues, including halitosis. Chronic dehydration is a simple factor that can make many products meant to protect against bad breath inefficient. Anaerobic bacteria that live at the back of our mouth and thrive on leftover food particles can get washed off by saliva (the mouth's own natural cleanser). However, if your mouth becomes dry due to low fluid intake, this natural defense fails. Increasing hydration levels, especially in those that drink a lot of coffee or diet soda, might help some cases of bad breath. Beverages such as tea, coffee, and alcohol all contribute to dehydration as they act as diuretics, so they do not necessarily contribute to keeping you hydrated.
Saliva as a Modern Diagnostic Tool
Saliva is an important body fluid and can be used to monitor a patient’s health status. It contains multiple biomarkers, which gives it unique diagnostic potential. Different conditions, including some cancers, infectious diseases, and heart diseases, can be detected by testing your saliva.
Salivary diagnostics is not a new field in medicine. However, it has not been the bodily fluid of choice because the tested components appear in relatively small amounts when compared to blood serum. This makes routine diagnostics somewhat challenging. Some cutting-edge technology has recently been introduced that is changing this. A group of Indian scientists has been working on the oral fluid nanosensor test, which could non-invasively detect biomarkers for oral cancer. The nanosensor test is ultrasensitive and combines various techniques to detect salivary proteins and RNA biomarkers. Biochip technology is also being implemented in salivary diagnostics.
These point of care devices are miniature sensor systems. They can accurately detect various characteristics of saliva, including pH, toxins, proteins, and antibodies.
Oral DNA tests are also being offered. They are saliva-based and can test for the presence of bacteria that cause gum disease. OralDNA Labs, a specialty diagnostic company, has designed two such tests, MyPerioPath and MyPerioID. MyPerioPath tests for pathogens and MyPerioID is able to identify patients at risk of developing gum disease by looking at their genetic susceptibility.
A Bad Breath Detector App for Your Oral Anxieties
At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, a solution for halitosis was showcased: The Mint by Breathometer. The Mint is the world’s first pocket-sized breathalyzer that measures your breath quality and hydration levels. Mouth hydration detection is a function that distinguishes this device from previous laboratory devices that focused solely on measuring Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSC), known to contribute to bad breath. Charles Michael Yim, the founder and CEO of Breathometer, is confident the innovative product will help people get to the bottom of their oral problems.
The Mint device wirelessly connects to your smartphone, providing you with a true bad breath detector app, and presents you with your results in seconds. The Mint's app also provides you with some practical, actionable solutions. All you need to do is place the Mint device in your mouth and let it automatically draw a sample of your breath. Your breath then gets analyzed for VSC and hydration levels. The free Breathometer companion app works on the latest iPhones, as well as many Android devices.
Elshibly A, Coulter W, Moore J, et al. Effective oral health in infective endocarditis: efficacy of high-street mouthwashes against the viridans group streptococci. Journal of Investigative and Clinical Dentistry, 2014;5(2):151-153.
Pujari M, Bahirwani S, Iqbal S, et al. Oral fluid nanosensor test: saliva as a diagnostic tool for oral health. Journal of The California Dental Association, 2012;40(9):733-736.
Senthamil S, Nithya J. Saliva: A Cutting Edge in Diagnostic Procedures. Journal of Oral Diseases, 2014.