It is common knowledge that poor oral care commonly leads to the development of cavities. However, various scientific studies indicate an increased risk of certain infections and diseases when people neglect their gums and teeth.

Below are some of the health-related issues that may result from poor oral hygiene.

Cardiovascular Disease
The oral cavity commonly contains various types of bacteria.

  • Neglecting good oral care encourages microbial colonies to flourish.
  • Inflammation develops and gums become tender, which is known as gingivitis.
  • Gingivitis causes the gums to bleed when brushing your teeth. Bacteria in the mouth then pass into the bloodstream.
  • Blood vessels become inflamed, and the battle to combat the infection gives rise to the possibility of blood clot and plaque formation.

The affected blood vessels narrow and blood pressure rises. The site of the internal infection causes vessel linings to harden and atherosclerosis forms.

  • When the bacteria travel to the heart, the microbes infect the heart, cardiac blood vessels or the protective sac surrounding the organ.
  • Inflammation develops and leaves the individual with pericarditis, endocarditis or both.
  • In order to prevent these problems from occurring, dental practitioners often prescribe prophylactic antibiotics before performing dental treatment.

A group of scientists from Japan’s Hiroshima University also found that adults having lost teeth to periodontal disease were 60 percent more likely to suffer a stroke.

Dementia
Bacteria in the mouth may enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain. The ensuing inflammation and infection that develop may damage blood vessels or brain cells. The lack of adequate blood flow or the disruption of communication between neurons may culminate in dementia symptoms. 

Respiratory Infections
Bacteria may travel down to the lungs when simply inhaling. Bacteria might also enter the lungs when infected blood passes through the lungs for oxygenation. The organisms take up residence in lung tissue and cause a localized infection that could progress into pneumonia.

Diabetes Complications
The effects of diabetes on the cardiovascular system and other organs put patients at greater risk for suffering from circulatory problems, heart attack or stroke. The addition of bacteria in the blood raises the risk even further. Once bacteria are in the blood, their growth and replication processes increase in the presence of the unused sugar.

Premature Infant Births
Physicians believe that one of the main reasons babies arrive too early involves the mother fighting an infection. At least some of the infections may have originated in the mouth.

The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology discovered a link between mothers who performed regular oral care and used a non-alcohol based mouthwash with a decreased incidence of premature deliveries.

Cancer Risk
Men with gum disease and poor oral health are at an increased risk of developing cancer.

  • A study determined that the link between gingivitis increased the risk of having blood cancers by 30 percent, kidney cancer by 49 percent and pancreatic cancer by 54 percent.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that using tobacco products also increased the risk.
  • Smokers are also less likely to have regular dental appointments, which reduces the chances of getting beneficial cancer treatment.

Basic Oral Care
Taking care of teeth and gums not only improves physical appearance but also goes a long way in ensuring overall health. There are a few simple steps to take in order to get on the road to better oral health.

  • Brush teeth at least twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Floss once daily.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Limit between-meal snacks.
  • Avoid tobacco products
  • Get annual dental checkups

Oral care does much more than ensure an attractive smile, and now you understand how maintaining the health of teeth and gums can also dramatically improve your overall health.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Lia Crispell, CRNP

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