Did you know that your dental health has a direction connection to health in other areas of your body? You may think that one infected tooth (or even a healthy, beautiful smile) doesn’t have any effect on the rest of your physical health, but it does. In fact, you can actually catch a few illnesses and conditions if you pay attention to your mouth.
The Effects of Poor Dental Health
- Your Heart
Researchers have found that people with gum disease and other oral infections have an increased risk for heart disease. In fact, the risk factor almost doubles.
Why? Experts believe that the infections in your mouth spread to the rest of your body after you swallow, and the bacteria from those infections affects other parts of the body via the bloodstream. When the bacteria reaches your heart, it attaches to plaques and other fatty substances in the blood vessels surrounding the heart.
Not only does the bacteria contribute to clogging your arteries, but it increases inflammation as well, leading to all kinds of heart problems.
- Your Brain
Just as the bacteria use the bloodstream to infect the heart, they infect the brain as well, leading to an increased risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s in those with poor dental health. However, the bacteria doesn’t just clog the arteries—it spreads into the nerves and weakens them.
- Your Blood Sugar
People with diabetes normally have a higher risk of infection, which means they can develop cavities, gum disease, and other bacterial infections more easily than other people. However, some research suggests that gum disease makes it harder to control your blood sugar, contributing to the onset of conditions like diabetes.
If you have a higher level of body fat, this process only accelerates. The higher concentration of fat in the body makes it harder for the body to function properly, limiting your ability to fight off infections, so gum disease (and all its consequences) can progress that much faster.
- Your Lungs
Whenever you eat or breathe, you bring a lot of bacteria in your mouth. Fortunately, your saliva and your fluoride are more than a match for that bacteria. However, if you don’t keep up with your oral hygiene, you could send a lot of that bacteria into your lungs when you inhale, and that bacteria could cause a serious infection there. Experts believe that conditions like COPD or pneumonia arise from this kind of infection.
If you smoke, you also accelerate this process. The nicotine in the cigarettes makes your blood vessels contract, which interferes with your body’s ability to fight infections. You’ll notice the effects in your gums and your lungs first.
- Your Reproduction System
Poor oral hygiene also has an effect on your ability to have children. Not only will you have more difficulty conceiving, but you’ll have a higher risk for miscarriages. Research also points to consequences like premature births or low birth weights.
This happens because of the presence of bacteria inside your body, which enters via your bloodstream as previously mentioned. And since women’s hormones change during pregnancy, they often have a higher risk for this kind of infection. But if you take good care of your teeth, you won’t have to worry about your dental health affecting your baby.
- Your Bones
Osteoporosis and periodontitis have one thing in common: they both cause bone loss. Some studies have suggested that those who have one often have a higher risk for developing the other. However, researchers have not come to a definitive conclusion about the relationship between the two. Just remember that the bacteria from your mouth can spread all over your body, causing problems wherever it goes.
Although poor dental hygiene comes with a lot of somewhat severe consequences, you can fix it easily and quickly by practicing good oral habits:
- Use mouthwash twice a day for at least 30 seconds.
- Floss before you brush your teeth—this helps you get any spare bits of material with your toothbrush, and it also ensures that your toothbrush can actually touch your gum line and the edges of your teeth.
- Use a toothbrush with soft bristles, and brush for 2 – 3 minutes.
- While you brush, makes sure your brush your tongue, your cheeks, and your gums. Make sure you brush your gums very gently.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 – 4 months, or replace it sooner if the ends look frayed (or the toothbrush itself looks disgusting).
- See your dentist at least twice a year—you should see your dentist more often, like every three to four months, if you already have gum disease.
You don’t have to worry about the consequences of poor dental health as long as you always have excellent oral hygiene. And if you have any more questions about keeping your mouth healthy, ask your dentist. He or she will happily help you maintain a beautiful smile—and a healthy body—for the rest of your life.