Healthy habits for better oral care

PHOTO: Healthy habits for better oral care

Beautiful, brainy and bubbly. These three words popped into my mind when I met local entertainer Lisa Surihani.

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Lisa is a familiar face on television as she has been acting in various commercials since 11.

The actress and model made her movie debut in 2006 with Goodbye Boys and won Best Actress at the 23rd Malaysian Film Festival for her work in Lagenda Budak Setan.

Apart from Lisa's talents as well as her humble and yet striking personality, her trademark is her dazzling smile.


Despite her confident, pearly-white smile, Lisa used to be among the many who think that brushing alone was sufficient to maintain oral health.

"I didn't think flossing was necessary," says the law graduate. "I used to think flossing would produce gaps in between teeth."

Describing herself as a driven person, Lisa says she thought that she had sensitive teeth until she realised the real problem - lack of proper oral care.

She says: "I assumed I had sensitive teeth when I spotted blood while brushing my teeth. However, that wasn't the case. It was simply because I'd not been taking care of my oral hygiene."


Lisa admits to being a late-bloomer when it comes to practising a complete oral care regimen that includes brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash.

She says during childhood, she always thought that brushing her teeth twice a day and using the right brushing technique were enough to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

She says her mother, Siti Amira Ahmad, always reminded her and her four brothers to floss when they were kids.

"Unfortunately, I didn't understand its importance at that time. For me, what mattered most was following the right technique taught in school," she says.

"However, it is a different story for me now, particularly after I learnt that lack of oral care can affect one's general health. I learnt that without a proper oral care regimen, you're opening up the floodgates to things that you don't want, including stroke, diabetes, heart disease or osteoporosis."

With her hectic schedule, Lisa admits that maintaining a routine and complete oral care regimen is a challenge. Therefore, instead of brushing and flossing after every meal as recommended by experts, she sticks to brushing, flossing and rinsing twice daily - after she wakes up in the morning and before she goes to bed at night. She also visits her dentist once in six months.


Lisa says she had a renewed perception of oral care after she became brand ambassador for Oral-B.

She says: "I'm always careful about marketing gimmick. I'm more concerned about things beyond having wonderful skin or beautiful hair when it comes to endorsing brands.

"We're responsible for taking care of every aspect of our lives and I will support a cause I truly believe in and have passion for.

"Now I'm on a mission to spread awareness that good oral hygiene is not only about having healthy, good-looking teeth or a confident smile. It's about taking care of yourself and your health thoroughly by following a simple oral care routine."


A healthy mouth and a healthy body go hand in hand. With this in mind, the brand launched the Rethink Your Mouth campaign to promote complete oral care regimen (that comprises brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash).

Campaign spokesperson Dr Faiz Khaleed says many people don't realise that a complete oral care regiment is essential as its benefits go beyond a nice, confident smile.

In a talk during the campaign launch, Dr Faiz, a dental surgeon and an astronaut, says poor dental conditions such as inflamed gums can lead to various ailments such as stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis.

He named several common health conditions that can result from poor oral hygiene:

Stroke: A study on fatty deposits lodged in the carotid arteries of stroke sufferers shows that up to 40 per cent of the bacteria that cause the fatty deposits come from the mouth if the gums are inflamed.

Tonsilitis: At the back of your throat, two masses of tissue called tonsils act as filters, trapping germs that would otherwise enter your airway. When infected, they could swell and cause fever.

Respiratory disease: Dental plaque harbours a high number of respiratory pathogens that can be aspirated and in turn, increase the risk in susceptible patients for pneumonia, emphysema and chronic obstructive lung disease.

Heart disease: Bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream when gums are inflamed. These bacteria can get mixed up with blood-clotting cells called platelets. These clumps of cells and bacteria can lodge inside the walls of the blood vessels, causing heart-stopping clots to form and consequently leading to heart disease. Keeping your gums healthy can reduce the risk of heart attack.

Diabetes: The presence of any gum inflammation can make it much more difficult for a diabetic to control blood sugar.

Preventing gum inflammation can directly improve diabetic control. A study of 48,000 men (in the period 1986-2002) found that men who had periodontal disease had 63 per cent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than men with healthy gums.

Gastric ulcer: The bacteria that appear in your mouth when you suffer from gum disease are the same bacteria that cause gastric ulcers. If the bacterial count in the mouth is high, these bacteria can constantly move to the stomach, reinfecting and causing a return of ulcer.

Osteoporosis: Periodontal disease may play a role in promoting osteoporosis. Tooth loss leads to a decrease in proper digestion, nutrition and calcium uptake.

Pre-term baby: Women with gum disease are seven times more likely to give birth prematurely to low birth weight babies.

Researchers believe that the low grade gum inflammation causes the body to release inflammatory chemicals which are linked to pre-term birth.


Here are some key findings from a survey done by Nielsen for Procter & Gamble in 2012. The survey was conducted on 300 Malaysians aged 16-55.

• Half the respondents had oral health problems such as sensitive teeth, swollen gums, tooth decay, bad breath, periodontitis and gingivitis.

• Almost 80 per cent admitted they felt less confident when they had tooth decay and bad breath.

• 54 per cent do not know what dental plaque is.

• Up to 95 per cent did not think plaque to be the main cause of common dental problems.

• 95 per cent were aware of the common dental problems. However, only 44 per cent were concerned about them.

• 93 per cent agreed that fresh breath builds confidence.

• 54 per cent agreed they would never go on a date with a person with bad breath.

• 59 per cent of the female respondents agreed they would rather date balding men than men with bad breath.

• 77 per cent noticed other people's teeth when they laughed and 51 per cent agreed they had negative impressions about colleagues with bad breath.

• Only 10 per cent visited their dentist at least twice a year and 79 per cent only did so when they had dental problems.

• 72 per cent were diligent in brushing their teeth at least twice a day on a regular basis, but 65 per cent were not using the correct brushing techniques recommended by dentists.