In the early days, the intent of humans was not to clean teeth but to remove an unpleasant subjective sensation. It was only later that people started keeping their oral cavity clean in order to prevent oral diseases. The state of one’s oral health resulting from this practice or its neglect is known as oral hygiene. A variety of oral hygiene measures have been used that have been recovered from excavations worldwide including tooth picks, chew sticks, tree twigs, strips of linen, bird feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills. The evidence of the first tooth brush - like device dates back to 3500 BC in the chewing sticks of Babylonia. 

The first tooth brush was invented in China in 1000 AD which had an ivory handle and bristles made from the horse’s mane. The problem of bad breath and halitosis was addressed long back by the Jews who propagated the use of “siwak” for cleaning teeth. The aforementioned historical facts clearly indicate that our ancestors were well aware of the Importance of a healthy oral cavity and every culture and civilization worldwide had devised their own measures to maintain it. They did not have the modern toothbrush nor the dental floss but their teeth were healthier and stronger than of the people nowadays.

So the question ariseS, are we losing the war against oral disease? IF yes, who or what is to blame? What has changed so drastically over the years? I can safely rest the answers to all these questions on one single word, “DIET”. It is our diet that has seen a paradigm shift from raw vegetables and meat rich in protein to processed foods with alarmingly high levels of carbohydrates. My child patients’ parents routinely ask me, “Why does he/ she have so many cavities? Is it because of too many chocolates?” I tell them that chocolates is just a small fraction of the caries contributory factors. It’s the diet as a whole. Lets close our eyes for a minute and give it a thought - ”what do we primarily eat the whole day?" - bread, chapattis, dairy products, cookies, wafers besides a bowl of pulses, a bowl of fruits and a bowl of cooked vegetables or meat. How about the treats - cakes, pastries, burgers, pizzas (bread), chocolates, sweets. I am sure you will also admit that we are mostly gulping processed food rich in carbohydrates. Since this is what we eat this is what we give to our children. In today’s fast moving life, we excuse ourselves by saying that we do not have the time to make a choice. We just put into our mouth whatever we can lay our hands on. We do not even have the time to rinse our mouth after a meal.  Let me put it yet another way. We have made ourselves accomplished and competent enough to feed ourselves with the "the best” foods available (pun intended).

Dear All, “our mouth is the gateway to our body and not a trashbin” and as a rule of mother nature“. As you sow, so shall you reap. Its time for a self- check! For healthy teeth and gums it is important that we keep a check of what we eat. Moreover, it is not only “what” but also “when” and “how often” we eat. 

Let me make it easy for all of us:

Ø Inculcate the importance of good oral hygiene from the childhood. One should start cleaning a child’s mouth soon after birth, even in the absence of teeth. A moist muslin cloth can be wrapped on the index finger and the gums, inside of the cheeks and the tongue should be gently wiped everyday.

Ø Once teeth erupt, a baby brush should be used to clean all surfaces of the teeth in non- scrubbing, vertical motion. Toothpaste should not be used till the age of 2 years after which a pea- sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste (500 ppm of fluoride) should be used. The tongue can be cleaned either with a tongue cleaner or the tooth brush, whichever is feasible.

Ø Children and even we adults love chocolates’ and other carbohydrate - rich foods’ treats. Such treats should be allowed once in a while but should not compose the major chunk of a child’s diet. As responsible parents, it is only and only us who introduce these foods to our children and it is only and only us who can control their consumption. All such treats should be followed by a thorough rinsing of the mouth, preferably brushing.

Ø One serious culprit to our deteriorating oral hygiene status is “in between the meal snacking”. The salivary flow is the maximum at meal times. This increased salivary flow helps simultaneously clean the oral cavity. Moreover, we generally end up consuming junk as snacks. Snacks in between the meals should largely include fruits, nuts, sliced raw vegetables like cucumbers, carrots etc. Snacks should be of a non- sticky nature.

Ø Aerated drinks and colas have very successfully replaced water as an accompaniment with meals. These are very high in sugars. Sugars are food for the micro- organisms in the mouth and the acids these organisms release as a byproduct cause dental cavities. Regular consumption not only leads to cavities but also washes away the precious enamel over the teeth. “Never brush immediately after consuming a cola”.

Ø Drink plenty of water which not only flushes toxins from the body but has remarkable oral health benefits.

Ø Brush twice a day, night brushing is more important than morning brushing. Adults should use a pea sized amount of fluoridated tooth paste (1000 ppm of fluoride). The correct brushing technique is equally important.

Ø Needless to say, consumption of tobacco in all its forms and alcohol is deleterious to the health of both the hard and soft tissues of the mouth. 

Ø You should also remember, never to consume something extremely hot immediately after something really cold and vice versa. This creates crack lines in teeth eventually leading to infections.

Ø Chewing a sugar free gum is not only a good exercise of the muscles in and around the mouth but also has a cleansing action because of the increased salivary flow. In a nutshell, our choices of our foods should be made judiciously. We have put in so much of effort and invested so much of time to create this world for ourselves where everything has become so readily accessible and advanced. All this would become a waste if we would not exist to live through it and enjoy it. So health is primary and the body begins with the mouth.