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Health Issues Caused by Poor Oral Health

You might think your oral health is all about the appearance and function of your smile. However, maintaining a healthy mouth can make a key difference in your overall health. Your mouth is a main entryway into your body, allowing bacteria to enter and ultimately spread through your bloodstream if you’re not careful. One way to decrease your risk for serious health problems related to your mouth, teeth and gums is to practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing for two minutes at least twice daily, flossing every day, using toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride, and visiting your dentist regularly. Other ways to improve your oral health are avoiding tobacco, limiting sugary foods and drinks, and eating a nutritious diet.

If you follow these oral health guidelines, you will be more likely to have healthy teeth that are clean and free from cavities and disease. You’ll also have healthy pink gums that do not bleed with brushing or flossing. Preventing periodontal disease and gingivitis decreases your chances for developing general health problems in your body. What are some of the common health issues that can be related to poor oral health?

Cardiovascular Disease

Heart, or cardiovascular, disease can be linked to oral bacteria traveling from the mouth into the bloodstream. It can cause the arteries to accumulate plaque and become hard, which is a dangerous condition called atherosclerosis. Risks for blood flow problems, heart blockages, and heart attacks are all higher. Hypertension or strokes may occur, as well as endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart lining that can be fatal.

Dementia

Your brain can be negatively impacted by poor oral health. Infected gums may release substances that can literally kill brain cells and cause memory loss. Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to gingivitis from mouth bacteria spreading to the nerves and into the bloodstream.

Respiratory Infections

Bacteria in your mouth caused by infection or inflammation can be breathed into your lungs or arrive there via your bloodstream. The results can be serious such as respiratory infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, or COPD.

Diabetes

People suffering from diabetes are at higher risk for infection, such as infected gums that cause periodontal disease. Having periodontal disease may make diabetes more difficult to control, worsening symptoms when blood sugar levels are often increased due to gum disease. Diabetics must practice good oral hygiene to help avoid serious complications.

Pregnancy Complications

Changing hormones in an expectant mother’s body can increase her risk for oral infections. In turn, any infection present in the body can lead to pregnancy complications. Gingivitis and periodontitis have been linked to premature birth and low birth weight in babies. Gum disease may cause serious health problems for both the mother and infant.

Infertility

Health issues related to gum disease can make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant or sustain a healthy pregnancy. Women with poor oral health may take longer to conceive compared to a woman who has healthy teeth and gums.

Erectile Dysfunction

Chronic periodontal disease places a higher risk for men to experience erectile dysfunction. In this type of gum disease, pockets caused by gums pulling away from teeth tend to house bacteria that can then spread to the bones surrounding teeth and travel to the bloodstream. Blood vessels may become inflamed, blocking the blood flow to genitals and making erections difficult or even impossible.

Cancer

Ideal oral health means not smoking or using tobacco products. Tobacco use can cause oral and throat cancers, as well as higher risk for cancers of the blood, pancreas, or kidneys.

Kidney Disease

Infections like periodontal disease can lead to kidney disease, which may be a serious issue affecting the kidneys, heart, blood pressure, and bones. People suffering from gum disease are more susceptible to infections due to their weakened immune systems. It is not uncommon for those with poor oral health to also have kidney disease, which may be fatal if kidney failure or cardiovascular disease results.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Studies show that people with gum disease are four times more likely to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Both of these diseases are associated with inflammation in the body. Gingivitis causes gum inflammation and oral bacteria, which then may increase inflammation in the body and create a higher risk for rheumatoid arthritis.