Visiting the dentist and practicing proper oral hygiene at home help with more than just promoting a healthy mouth, teeth, and gums; these habits can help your whole-body health, too.

How Does Oral Health Affect Overall Health?

The mouth harbors millions of bacteria. Some of these are healthy and others can be quite harmful, especially if they’re left to flourish without proper dental care.

The mouth is also one of the main entry points to the rest of your body. As a result, poor oral hygiene can lead to respiratory infections due to inhaled bacteria. Additionally, harmful bacteria living in the mouth can enter the bloodstream. As oral bacteria travel through the bloodstream to the rest of the body, they can cause inflammation and lead to infections throughout the system, harming your overall health.

7 Health Problems Related to Poor Oral Health

1. Cardiovascular Disease

The bacteria associated with periodontal (gum) disease can significantly hurt heart health, leading to cardiovascular disease. Bacteria from periodontal disease travel through the bloodstream. When they reach the heart, they can cause a buildup of plaque leading to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and hypertension (high blood pressure). Additionally, these bacteria can cause a serious condition called endocarditis if they lead to an infection of the tissues that line the heart.

2. Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dental disease also appears to be a contributing factor in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Bacteria from gum disease can get into the brain via the bloodstream or nerve channels. Additionally, enzymes released by infected gums can be lethal to brain cells, leading to the memory loss associated with these types of cognitive decline.

3. Diabetes

Diabetics are more susceptible to developing periodontal disease, and periodontal disease can also make diabetes more difficult to manage by leading to elevated blood sugar levels. This also means that individuals with periodontal disease may be at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes as a result of their oral infection.

4. Kidney Disease

Periodontal disease (and diabetes) increase a person’s risk of developing kidney disease which affects the function of these vital organs. Kidney disease can harm the body, lead to elevated blood pressure, and cause cardiovascular disease. It can even be fatal.

5. Respiratory Infections

A proliferation of harmful oral bacteria is a hallmark of poor oral hygiene. With so much dangerous bacteria in the mouth, it becomes increasingly likely that a person could breathe this bacteria into their lungs, leading to dangerous respiratory infections such as bacterial pneumonia.

6. Rheumatoid Arthritis

People with gum disease are four times more likely to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, according to data from the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. Since both periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis are related to general, systemic inflammation, the two diseases can exacerbate the effects of each other.

7. Cancer

Harmful oral health practices like smoking, using chewing tobacco, or consuming too much alcohol can lead to oral cancers of the mouth, gums, tongue, throat, jaw, and esophagus. Periodontal disease has also been associated with an increased risk of developing blood cancers, kidney cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Safeguard Your Health With Regular Dental Checkups

The best way to protect your overall health from the dangers of poor oral health is by establishing a routine of good oral hygiene. You should brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, rinse with water after eating sugary or acidic foods, and visit the dentist at least once or twice a year for a professional teeth cleaning and examination.

Dental exams not only focus on removing plaque and tartar from the surfaces of the teeth to help prevent periodontal disease but also focus on additional preventative care with sealants and fluoride applications and health screenings to ensure the early detection and treatment of dental problems and diseases. To learn more about how good oral health protects your general health or to schedule your next cleaning and examination at Eastgate Dental Excellence, we welcome you to contact our Cincinnati dentist today.