We all know the importance of brushing our teeth regularly to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and other oral health concerns. But did you know that oral hygiene affects far more than the health of your teeth and mouth?
Your oral health can affect many parts of your body, even seemingly unrelated ones. The health of your teeth, throat, mouth, and gums can play a role in everything from your brain health to the operation of your cardiovascular system. In this article, we will outline the top ways that having healthy teeth is important to maintaining an overall healthy body.
Here are the top ways that oral hygiene affects your whole-body health.
Believe it or not, oral health — especially healthy gums or vice versa — can affect your chances of developing heart disease. If you develop gum disease, you run the risk of bacteria from your gums traveling through your bloodstream.
This can eventually lead to your body’s main arteries, where it may develop into some of the common problems that lead to heart disease, including atherosclerosis and endocarditis. Atherosclerosis also increases your risk of having a stroke as your body’s blood flow worsens.
Unfortunately, gum disease and diabetes often go hand in hand. Diabetics have a harder time controlling their oral health for a multitude of reasons and are at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Meanwhile, bacteria on the gums can make diabetes symptoms more severe.
Believe it or not, sub-par oral hygiene may lead to pneumonia. The throat and the lungs are close in proximity, and they often interchange bacteria. This becomes a serious problem when gum disease is present and bacteria pass from the mouth to the lungs. They can then develop into pneumonia, which is a serious condition, especially for seniors.
Pneumonia isn’t the only respiratory infection you risk from gum disease, either. Patients have developed acute bronchitis and COPD related to dental health as well.
Pregnant women are urged to get a thorough dental exam during their second trimester and to maintain good oral health throughout their pregnancy. That is because gum disease has been linked to pregnancy complications, including preterm birth and low birth weight.
Meanwhile, some studies show a link between healthy teeth and female fertility. This includes both conceiving and maintaining the pregnancy. Oral health also plays a role in male fertility, with poor dental care affecting sperm health and motility!
When we think of oral hygiene and cancer, we probably connect it to mouth and throat cancer. But the truth is that your oral health plays a role in your overall risk of developing many types of cancer, not just ones affecting your mouth. This includes kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers, among others.
One way that researchers think that oral hygiene may affect cancer development is because of lowered saliva production. Gum disease causes you to have a drier mouth, which becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and increases the risk of absorption into the bloodstream.
Poor oral health is also linked to an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. That’s because gingivitis and arthritis both involve inflammation.
Inflammation in the gums can trigger an immune response that plays a role in the development of arthritis, which affects your body’s joints and is extremely painful. The two are so strongly linked that foundations for arthritis patients have guidelines on how to maintain strong teeth and healthy gums.
The health of your mouth can also affect the health of your brain, especially as you get into your senior years. The bacteria that accumulate in your mouth when you don’t have strong gums can be harmful. As it passes into your bloodstream, it can affect many parts of your body, including your brain and nervous system.
Once there, these bacteria may cause the death of brain cells, which in turn leads to memory loss and the development of diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Oral hygiene weakens your overall immune system by allowing harmful bacteria to pass throughout your body. This increases your risk of developing conditions like kidney disease, which is caused by infections. People with weaker immune systems because of periodontal disease are prone to developing infections, some of them extremely serious.
The best way to avoid gum disease and the problems associated with poor oral hygiene is through maintenance. In general, practicing a healthy lifestyle by eating good food and taking care of your teeth drastically reduces your chances of developing gum disease.
1. Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day - Brush your teeth in the morning and the evening. Take your time while you brush, making sure you brush along the gum line. Move the toothbrush in circles and go slowly. Ideally, it should take about two minutes.
2. Clean Your Tongue - Make sure to clean your tongue, as it can harbor harmful bacteria.
3. Use the Right Toothpaste - Always use a toothpaste containing fluoride, which will help you maintain strong teeth and healthy gums.
4. Use a Good Toothbrush - Use a soft-bristled toothbrush that conforms to your mouth. Consider using an electric toothbrush, which reduces the risk of gum disease. Replace the head every three months.
5. Floss Once a Day - Flossing removes bacteria from between your teeth.
Oral hygiene doesn’t just affect your teeth and gums — it can affect your entire body. By practicing good oral hygiene, you can protect yourself against serious diseases that can drastically affect your life or even shorten it. Thankfully, the answer lies in just a few simple changes. Get started on the path to a healthier life by getting in touch with us to schedule a comprehensive dental exam with Dr. Sara Boren!