There are obvious aesthetic reasons to take care of your teeth, but many people don’t know about the many additional health implications poor dental hygiene can bring with it. The mouth is an important passageway to the rest of your body, and a clean and strong gateway can be imperative in the fight for overall good health.
Hundreds of bacteria can live in your mouth. Some of these bacteria are harmless. Others help support digestion, or even protect your teeth and gums. On the other hand, many bacteria are harmful and can lead to problems both expected and not expected. For example there is porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacteria that can lead to a condition called periodontitis. This weakens your teeth’s soft tissue and alveolar bone, causing pain in your teeth and potential tooth loss. There is also streptococcus mutans, which feeds on the sugar and starches in your mouth, causing tooth decay by way of its enamel eroding acids. And of course there is the most widely known and the most prevalent problem: plaque.
Plaque is a film that builds up on your teeth and contains enamel-decaying bacteria. It is easy to remove, with regular brushing, but if left unattended, can turn into tartar, which recedes into your gums. This can cause inflammation and infection of the gums, while eventually passing the bacteria through to your bloodstream and into the rest of your body. Some evidence suggests that this process can harbor a new internal plaque, which can lead to the hardening of certain arteries.
At this point we begin to see the unexpected effects of poor dental hygiene. Other studies have claimed that different bacteria, let in through the gums, can make its way into the brain, harming neurons and increasing your risk of dementia. Also, oral microbes can even travel through your breath, bringing infection to your lungs.
These worst-case possibilities are best avoided ahead of time with persistent brushing and dental visits. It’s important to pay close attention to the top and bottom edges of your teeth, along the gum line. It only take about 10 seconds to brush the middle of your teeth, but if you are not spending additional time removing the plaque from the very top and bottom, you gums will actually grow in a defensive response to the bacteria and irritation. Eventually your gums will grow swollen and red, trying to grow over the plaque to fight it. It’s an impressive trick our bodies have learned to do, but since we now have created toothbrushes, it is no longer something we should depend on.
Just as your oral health can affect your overall health, your overall health can have implications for your oral health. Researchers have learned that gum disease can often be a sign of diabetes, and tooth weakness or loss can be a sign of osteoporosis. In rare cases, doctors may decide to test their patient for HIV if they are experiencing painful mucosal legions. So far many of these connections are nothing more than correlations between test subjects, but doctors still keep close watch over situations like these and continue to recommend preventative dental care including proper brushing, flossing and regular visits to your dentist.