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In 2000, the Surgeon General of the United States released a Report on Oral Health in America. Within the report, the Surgeon General states, "Oral health means much more than healthy teeth...New research is pointing to associations between chronic oral infections and heart and lung diseases, stroke, low birth weight and premature births.

Over the past few years, what we have been learning from the Surgeon General's Report and numerous other studies is that oral health is tremendously important to overall health and well being – more so than you think. The 2000 Report also states that if left untreated, "Poor oral health can be the silent x-factor promoting the onset of life-threatening diseases that are responsible for the deaths of millions of Americans each year". Furthermore, the American Dental Hygienists Association says that the signs and symptoms of many life-threatening diseases begin in the mouth and many of these problems can be prevented or abated by simply paying closer attention to the condition of our teeth, gums and tongue and making oral health a strict priority.

Perhaps the most dangerous and most prolific kind of oral infection is periodontal disease (gum disease). Depending on which source you select, it is estimated that approximately 75% to 95% of American adults have some form of periodontal disease; and since the condition is usually painless in its primary stages, a majority of those affected do not even realise that they have it.

Periodontal disease is the kind of chronic infection caused by a harmful brand of oral bacteria. You could have a mild case of gingivitis and not know it (unless you had the chance to visit your dentist or hygienist today) – the gingival infection could remain in your mouth for months, or years, or decades. These kinds of chronic oral infections (gingivitis and periodontitis) could lead to serious, even deadly health problems that lie beyond the mouth. The Head of the Department of Health Policy and Health Services Research at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine, Raul Garcia, says, "whichever way one analyses the data, your risk of death increases three-fold if you have periodontal disease."

Researchers at Harvard University believe that chronic infection, such as periodontal disease, causes inflammation that often goes unnoticed by patients (internal inflammation is symptomless and is often impossible to detect). Ironically, inflammation is usually a helpful reaction when it sends an army of white blood cells to fight an infection, but the Harvard Medical School report claims that the inflammatory cells secrete a substance called Creactive protein (CRP) that actually promotes atherosclerosis. Some of the research has shown that men with high levels of CRP had three times as many heart attacks as those with the lowest levels, which goes along with the findings of a study by the University of Buffalo that found people with gum disease had three times the risk of heart attack over a 10 year period.

Other research proves that acute periodontitis is a cause of low-level inflammation all over the body. Scientists at the University of Buffalo believe that the chemicals produced by the immune system's reaction to periodontal disease – the inflammatory response – spill over into the bloodstream through cuts in the gums. Then the chemicals make their way to the liver to produce proteins that inflame the arterial walls and clot the blood. Atherosclerosis and, ultimately, heart attack may result.

Needless to say, the mouth is one of the dirtiest parts of the body. Not only are there millions of germs in our mouths, it is the prime portal for infection to enter the body and it is a major site of chronic and often undetected silent disease. Every time we brush, we coat our toothbrush with millions of disease-causing germs. Then we rinse our toothbrush under the tap for a few seconds, and throw it in the community cup with all the other germ-infested toothbrushes. We store that cup in the dirtiest room in the house – the bathroom – and we return to brush with the same toothbrush 6 to 12 hours later.

Recently, CNN Headline News reported, "Hiding in those bristles [of your toothbrush] is a multitude of oral microorganisms that can lead to several health problems, including oral inflammatory diseases that you can get from your own self-contaminated toothbrush."

But, you're not sick right now, so brushing with a dirty toothbrush must be okay, right? Wrong! The health problems associated with brushing with a contaminated toothbrush do not instigate immediate, acute symptoms (except for the flu, cold, or bouts of diarrhea that are typically thought to have come from somewhere else). The damage from daily brushing with a contaminated toothbrush can take years or decades to manifest into serious health problems. Until now, there has not been a simple and safe solution to the toothbrush-germ problem.

Using a contaminated, germ-infested toothbrush simply cannot be beneficial to your oral health or your total health – and it may be the silent factor in the onset of many serious health problems. Sanitising your toothbrush, and thereby protecting your immune system from a variety of harmful microorganisms, is of vital importance to your overall health.

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