Tooth decay and gum disease can affect more than just your dental health. Research shows that your oral health and systemic health are closely linked. The sticky plaque that builds up on teeth is made up of millions of bacteria. If you slack on your dental care, bacteria from the mouth can lead to inflammation or infection in other parts of the body. This is even more likely if your immune system is already compromised by disease or certain medical treatments. Fortunately, good oral health can significantly reduce your risk of developing a disease and other sicknesses caused by oral bacteria.
Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health
Poor dental care can result in much more than teeth stains and the occasional cavity. In fact, bacteria from periodontal disease and inflammation of the gums can enter your bloodstream and travel to the heart. Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, has been associated with poor dental health. In a recent study that observed the link between cardiovascular and periodontal disease, researchers found that people with diagnosed periodontal disease are four times more likely to develop a lacunar stroke.
Respiratory infection is another risk of poor oral health. Gum disease can cause you to develop infections in your lungs, such as pneumonia. These infections are caused by breathing in bacteria from infected teeth and gums over a prolonged period. According to the Infectious Diseases Society of America, people who never undergo dental checkups have an 86 percent greater risk of developing pneumonia than people who visit their dentist twice a year.
Your oral health can also affect your long-term memory and thinking skills. Bacteria from gum disease or gingivitis can reach the brain through the bloodstream or nerve channels in the head. In time, these bacteria can lead to the development of various dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease. According to a study consisting of donated brain samples from ten people with dementia and ten people without, the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis was found in the brain of dementia patients. These bacteria have been found to induce brain changes in Alzheimer’s patients.
Tips for Maintaining Proper Oral Hygiene
Good oral hygiene consists of a mouth free of decay and debris. Your gums should appear pink and should not hurt or bleed when you brush or floss. Also, bad breath should not be an ongoing issue. If you struggle with these issues, it’s time to enhance your oral health care. Brush at least twice a day and floss daily to prevent the development of tooth decay and gum disease. You should also visit your dentist at least twice a year for a thorough examination and cleaning.
How you care for your teeth and gums has a direct effect on the rest of your body. Your mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria and must be properly cleaned on a routine basis to keep the production of bacteria at a healthy level. Neglect your teeth and gums and your health as a whole will suffer. If you are experiencing health problems that you believe are associated with your oral health, discuss your concerns with a dentist.