When you think about maintaining proper dental hygiene, you’re likely thinking of your teeth and gums and preventing cavities.
While this is very important, taking care of your oral hygiene has health benefits that extend beyond just your mouth.
Poor oral hygiene increases your risk factors for developing several health conditions.
The role of inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or disease to protect the cells and muscles from further damage.
However, sometimes, the inflammatory response does not shut off and may be continuously triggered by environmental factors, food, or systemic bodily failures to stop activating an immune response.
Chronic inflammation is thought to play a significant role in a multitude of health issues. More doctors and scientists recognise the risks of inflammation in a variety of health conditions, from autoimmune diseases to Alzheimer’s.
Periodontal disease is a source of inflammation, and chronic inflammation in the mouth can lead to serious health issues in other areas of the body.
1. Cardiovascular health
It’s not yet fully understood how oral health and cardiovascular disease are linked, but there is some evidence that infections and inflammation caused by poor dental hygiene can raise the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Some evidence shows that dislodged bacteria from the mouth can lead to an infection of the heart valves called endocarditis.
People with diabetes already have an immune system that is more susceptible to serious infections.
This increases the risk of developing gum disease, and these infections tend to occur more often in people who have diabetes.
There also seems to be a link between chronic gum disease and difficulty with controlling blood sugar levels.
3. Premature births and low birth weights
For many years, periodontal disease has been linked to low birth weights or preterm births, but until scientists understood the role of chronic inflammation, the connection was a mystery.
According to this study, there is evidence that oral bacteria can travel to distant areas of the body and cause inflammation in the fetal-placental area.
Periodontal disease may be the source of inflammation that is the catalyst in the presence of other inflammatory factors or pregnancy complications and cause preterm birth or suppress growth in the womb.
About 15% of cancers are linked to inflammatory and infectious diseases.
With chronic inflammation, the process of cell replication is damaged, which can lead to malignant growths within the cells.
Studies link poor oral health with pancreatic cancer in particular. Additionally, those who have chronic gum disease are more susceptible to mouth and throat cancers.
What can I do?
Practicing good oral hygiene at home is important, but you also need regular dental visits to clean hardened plaque off your teeth and an assessment of your gum health.
Your dental hygienist knows the signs of gum disease, and with proper intervention, you can stop gum disease from becoming a chronic inflammatory problem.
Proper oral hygiene will not only keep your mouth healthy, but it can keep the rest of your body healthy, too!
About the author
Dr. Fadi Swaida first graduated from the University of Western Ontario with an Honors BSc in Biology before graduating from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Dentistry. He is an active member of his church and enjoys football and being by the water! His outgoing personality and fun-loving character will ensure you always feel welcome at Dentist North York.