Handwashing: How Does it Relate to Oral Health?

December is a great time to learn more about the connection between handwashing and oral health because of National Handwashing Awareness Week. Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important things you can do for your overall — and oral — health. We’re sure you’ve heard plenty of times how to properly wash your hands this year, but here is why it’s important to your dental hygiene routine.

How Does Handwashing Work to Fight Disease?

Washing hands rids your hands of bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that can lead to disease. But, it needs to be done right to work.  A simple rinsing of hands doesn’t do the trick. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,  to successfully eliminate dangerous pathogens from your hands you should:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

This will allow the necessary time for the soap to go to work.

Bacteria and Your Mouth

Your oral microbiome comprises all the bacteria–including their genes–that live in your mouth. There are 700 different species of bacteria in your mouth that influence your health.

In your oral microbiome, healthy bacteria protect your mouth by fighting tooth decay.  However, alongside the healthy bacteria are harmful bacteria that lead to cavities and disease. Together, they create a community called biofilm, dental plaque, that can lead to oral decay. Reducing the amount of bacteria that impacts your oral microbiome starts with simple handwashing.

Unhealthy Diets/Hygiene Lead to an Imbalace in Healthy vs. Harmful Bacteria

The balance between healthy and harmful bacteria can become imbalanced because of a poor diet, poor oral hygiene and other health issues.  If harmful bacteria begins to take over in your mouth, the result can be bad breath, cavities, gum disease, tooth loss and sickness.  As a matter of fact, your oral health can have far-reaching effects on your total body health. How? Inflammation from oral bacteria (or periodontal disease) damages the tiny blood vessels in your gums and can enter your bloodstream.

his is how the process works: As the inflammation from pathogens or periodontal disease damages the tiny blood vessels in your gums, oral bacteria are allowed to enter your bloodstream. Oral bacteria has been linked with issues like:  diabetesheart diseaseadverse pregnancy outcomes, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression.

Taking care of your oral health is an act that influences more than meets the eye. Following a regular hygiene routine (that cares for your teeth and keeps your hands and body clean) will improve your appearance and help you to be much healthier.

Washing Your Hands

Washing your hands regularly is not just good hygiene in action.  It’s responsible living, for you and for those around you that could be impacted by your failure to eliminate and spread dangerous bacteria.

When you use the restroom, you should always wash your hands afterward using warm water and soap. Make sure and produce a good lather all over your hands and underneath your fingernails.  Scrub for about 20 seconds to ensure you’ve removed all the germs off of your hands.

Not washing your hands can permit harmful bacteria to make you and others sick.  Furthermore, always wash your hands after cooking and when handling raw meat to prevent the spread of salmonella and other harmful diseases.

If you or a loved one has a cold or other illness, it’s especially important to be vigilant about washing your hands so you don’t spread your germs to others. If you can’t wash you hands, keep a small container of antibacterial hand sanitizer with you to help kill germs on your hands.

Other Ways to Prevent Tooth Decay from Oral Bacteria

Prevention. Prevention. Prevention. We can’t emphasize this enough to our patients. By committing to daily oral hygiene habits you can prevent most issues and problems in your mouth.  Brushing and flossing are extremely important. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, brushing and flossing after every meal to help remove food particles from between your teeth and gums that lead to tooth decay.

Keeping your teeth free of plaque is your first line of defense to prevent cavities and oral infections.  Professional dental services support the efforts of a  good home hygiene routine. X-rays and professional cleanings every six months will help to ensure that your mouth stays healthy.

Call Us Today to Schedule an Exam and Consultation

Young Family Dental has been providing exceptional dental care for families in Utah since 1972, when Dr. Wayne B. Young first opened the clinic. Since that time, his son, Dr. Christopher Young, has joined the practice along with many other talented dentists. We have also expanded to five convenient locations throughout Utah County and south Salt Lake County. For nearly 50 years, we have been providing the highest level of quality and compassionate care to people who need a family dentist in American Fork, Orem, Saratoga Springs, West Jordan and Riverton.

Call us today to learn more!

OREM 801-899-1095

AMERICAN FORK 801-396-2295


RIVERTON 801-252-6369

WEST JORDAN 801-613-1816