Many of the effects of poor dental health are obvious — cavities, bad breath and tooth loss are hard to ignore. However, did you know that poor dental health can contribute to a variety of other serious health conditions? Your dental health is tied closely to your overall health in many ways that might surprise you. Here are four ways that neglecting your dental health can create other health concerns:
- Systemic diseases. Our mouths are full of bacteria. By not brushing and flossing regularly, you increase the chances that this bacteria will build up and form plaque, leading to tooth decay. This bacteria can create an even bigger issue by can traveling through the bloodstream to other parts of the body and causing inflammation. Periodontal (gum) disease has been linked to heart disease — it is thought that the harmful bacteria from your mouth travels to the heart and sticks to damaged valves. Inflammation also increases your chance for stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and kidney disease, and can worsen issues from preexisting medical conditions, like diabetes or a compromised immune system.
- Mental health. Tooth pain and tooth loss are both associated with stress and a decrease in mental well-being. Think about it – if you can’t chew and speak properly because of missing teeth, your quality of life diminishes. Furthermore, the same inflammation that contributes to systemic diseases can also adversely affect your brain. Although a direct cause has not been established between mental health disorders and gum disease, research shows a correlation between gum disease and mental health. Researchers speculate that harmful bacteria can move from the mouth to the brain and destroy neurons, leading to depression and even memory loss.
- Respiratory issues. Harmful bacteria from your mouth can also be breathed into your lungs, causing respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. Research shows a relationship between poor oral health and bacterial pneumonia. Poor oral health can also make chronic respiratory diseases harder to treat.
- Pregnancy complications. Gum disease can also create complications during pregnancy, including premature birth and low birth weight. Research has shown that gum disease in an expectant mother can adversely affect the growth of an unborn child, and potentially initiate preterm labor. Women who are pregnant also have an increased likelihood of developing gum disease because of hormonal changes.
It is important to keep up with our oral hygiene so we maintain an optimal level of health. For better dental health and overall health, it is essential to brush and floss twice per day, and to make and keep twice-yearly dental appointments. You wouldn’t ignore chest pain or a constant migraine, and your dental health should have the same priority. Call us to schedule an appointment today!