Maintaining a healthy mouth isn’t only about keeping your teeth looking clean and having fresh breath. Poor dental hygiene can lead to problems that are much bigger than a tarnished smile. Believe it or not, tooth decay and gum disease can affect other parts of your body, including your heart and kidneys.
Neglecting to go for your regular teeth cleanings or forgetting to brush your teeth on a regular basis can cause a build up of unhealthy bacteria in the mouth, leading to dental problems such as gum disease, gingivitis, periodontitis, and may lead to pain, irritation, bleeding gums, and bad breath. If you let it go for too long, those issues can actually have a profoundly negative affect on areas throughout the body.
A build up of unhealthy bacteria in the mouth can easily get into the bloodstream and cause infection and inflammation wherever it spreads, affecting your cardiovascular system, lungs, kidneys, brain, and can cause further complications relating to infertility, pregnancy and chronic inflammation, just to name a few.
Here are some common and more serious health problems that can be caused by neglecting your oral health:
A study performed by the American Heart Association suggests having poor oral health puts a person at higher risk for heart disease. It may seem like a far stretch, but if you neglect your teeth, and the gums become inflamed due to periodontal disease, the build up of bacteria in the mouth can then enter the bloodstream. Dr. Ann Bolger, a cardiologist and professor of medicine emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, has stated that gum disease is one of the diseases "where the body may be in a sort of continual state of inflammation, and this seems to be a very powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease." Recent studies suggest bad oral health can cause a build up of plaque in the arteries. As a result, blood-flow issues and heart blockages can occur, which in-turn can increase the likelihood of a heart attack. The damaging impact on the arteries and blood vessels from bad oral health can lead to other cardiovascular issues like hypertension and an increased risk for stroke. Endocarditis can also develop, which is an often fatal condition that occurs when the lining of the heart becomes infected. Understanding the fact that the bloodstream can carry bacteria from the mouth to other parts of the body, is crucial in being able to prevent serious health risks, especially to the cardiovascular system.
Poor oral health can also affect the brain. Substances that are released from gums inflamed by infection can actually kill brain cells and lead to memory loss, according to a recent study referenced by Harvard Health Publishing. Dementia and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease can result from gingivitis when the bacteria in the mouth spreads to the nerve channels or enters the bloodstream. It’s a scary thought that forgetting to go to the dentist could actually make you more forgetful.
The respiratory system can suffer as a result of poor oral health too. Bacteria in the mouth from infected teeth and swollen gums can enter into the lung tissue. Once bacteria enters the lungs, it can lead to serious respiratory infections such as; pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and even COPD.
Because gum disease can lead to higher than normal blood sugar levels, a person with poor oral health is at an increased risk of developing diabetes . It's especially important for those who have already been diagnosed with diabetics, to take good care of their oral health to prevent complications with their disease, as they are already prone to infection.
Leading experts suggest there is also a link between poor oral health and problems with infertility in women. Gum disease may lead to various overall health issues that can make it more difficult for a woman to conceive and sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy can actually cause women to develop oral infections more easily. Any infection in the mother’s body can increase risk of experiencing complications during pregnancy. Recent studies suggest that oral health problems in the mother such as periodontitis and gingivitis, can lead to premature birth and low birth weight in infants. Gum disease can put both the mother and baby at risk for experiencing serious health issues.
It’s common knowledge that poor oral health practices such as smoking or using tobacco products can lead to oral and throat cancers, but has been suggested by recent studies that other types of oral cancers can be linked to poor oral health and gum disease alone. Risk for kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and blood cancers can be much higher for people who have poor oral health.
New research and preliminary studies suggest a connection between gum infections and chronic kidney disease. Just as research indicates this inflamed state in the gums can affect major organs such as the heart, through bacteria in the blood stream, recent studies show kidneys are similarly at risk. It’s extremely important to note that kidney disease can be fatal if it leads to kidney failure, so the potential link and risks associated with gum disease shouldn't be taken lightly.
According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, people with gum disease were four times more likely to have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Both diseases have inflammation in common. The oral bacteria from gingivitis can increase inflammation throughout the body. This makes the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis much higher.
What are some signs of a serious dental problem?
You should see your dentist right away if you experience pain, bleeding gums, swelling or irritation inside your mouth. Tenderness, blisters and ulcers that don’t heal, or noticeable changes in color or texture of the soft tissues are also potential signs that there's a more serious issue. These could all be indications of an underlying condition, such as chronic gum disease or even mouth cancer.
Now that we’ve gone through some of the serious health risks associated with bad oral health, it’s very clear just how important it is to practice good oral hygiene and to see your dentist regularly. To practice good oral hygiene, try implementing the following healthy practices into your routine:
Taking care of your teeth and gums to prevent oral health problems like gingivitis and periodontal disease, can really go a long way toward decreasing the risk for more serious health problems throughout the body. With routine visits to your dentist and good oral hygiene, your teeth should last a lifetime, as they were designed to do.
EMI Health offers a variety of affordable dental plans for you and your family so you can maintain good oral health. Visit https://emihealth.com/Plans/Individual to compare rates and learn more about our great benefits.