Bacteria in your mouth cause plaque, which is a soft and gummy buildup on your teeth. If you don’t remove this film every day, it can harden as tartar eventually. Regular brushing, flossing, and cleanings can help you avoid these harmful deposits and resulting cavities. But bacteria still may be hiding in your mouth, causing the inflammation, redness, pain, and bleeding of gingivitis, a common form of periodontal or gum disease.
Recent studies found that inadequate oral hygiene may allow oral pathogens to travel through your bloodstream to remote body areas. This might lead to serious and potentially life-threatening secondary illnesses. Luckily, research also indicates that taking good care of your teeth can diminish your risks of developing multiple diseases.
A study involving nuns between the ages of 75 and 98 found that those who had the fewest teeth were more apt to suffer from memory deterioration with some type of dementia. The researchers theorized that oral bacteria may have traveled via the women’s bloodstreams or cranial nerves running through their jaws to their brains, contributing to neural plaque that can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
University of California researchers associated poor brushing habits with a 65-percent greater dementia risk for elderly women and 22-percent higher odds among men. A Swedish study of over 500 seniors over 77 years old linked chewing difficulties and tooth loss with cognitive function decline. In addition to practicing good oral hygiene, Alzheimer’s medications, such as Memantine HCL, reduce potential memory loss and cognitive problems.
A study showed that poor oral health increased subjects’ rate of acquiring the human papillomavirus (HPV) by 56 percent, compared to those who had healthy mouths. Research has linked HPV to cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, penile, and oropharyngeal (tongue, throat, and tonsil) cancers. Two studies discovered that Fusobacterium nucleatum, a common dental plaque bacterium, triggers inflammation and activates cancer genes to cause colorectal tumor malignancies.
Periodontal disease makes you almost twice as apt to have coronary artery problems as those with adequate gum health. Even though researchers have been unable to pinpoint the cause of this tendency, some scientists think higher oral bacteria counts must be to blame. Bacteria can infiltrate your bloodstream through bleeding gums. Then, they can attach to fatty plaques that build up in your arteries, causing inflammation and higher chances for blood clot occurrences.
Studies show that regular dental cleanings can decrease your risks for heart problems including strokes.
According to a Journal of Periodontology report, gum disease may increase the chances of contracting various respiratory infections including bronchitis, bacterial pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Unfortunately, you can inhale oral bacteria and inflame your air passages and lungs easily.
People with diabetes are more susceptible to periodontal disease than those with normal blood glucose levels. Studies show that each of these conditions makes the other worse. Regulating your blood sugar may be more difficult for your body when you have gum disease. Research also shows that periodontal disease treatment can help relieve uncontrollable diabetic symptoms.
How to Improve Your Oral Health
Maintaining a clean mouth by enhancing your dental hygiene habits can reduce many unwelcome health risks. Pam Atherton, a dental hygienist, advises that your gums and teeth shouldn’t bleed, cause pain, or feel sharp or rough against your tongue. For a few hours or more after brushing, your breath ought to retain its freshness. These dentist-recommended practices can help increase your dental and general health.
Floss before you brush. Periodontology professor Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, D.M.D., from the University of Philadelphia’s School of Dental Medicine recommends flossing first to extract food stuck between your teeth. Then, brushing will help clear those particles. If you have trouble with plain floss, try coated floss, floss holders, and plastic picks.
Choose soft- to extra-soft bristle toothbrushes. Medium to hard bristles can cause tooth damage by scraping off enamel gradually and hurting tender gums. Your gum tissue won’t make calluses, Atherton warns. Enamel and gum loss exposes the roots of your teeth eventually, triggering sensitivity, painfulness, and possible deterioration of your jawbone.
Brush properly. Atherton and dentist Dr. Michael Sohl, D.D.S., suggest brushing your teeth for two full minutes a minimum of twice per day. To rid crevices in your mouth of damaging bacteria, also brush your chewing surfaces, cheeks, and tongue. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song in your head twice at a standard speed while brushing each side of your mouth. Replace your toothbrush or disposable bristle head after each three-month interval.
Use mouthwash. Jeffcoat advises gargling with mouthwash 30 seconds two times a day to decrease your gum disease risk by as much as 60 percent. Select a mouthwash that kills plaque-causing bacteria.
Reduce sugar intake. Consume less sugar-laden foods and drinks with and between meals. Oral bacteria utilize sugars from your diet to create acids that erode your tooth enamel and trigger gum problems.
Limit alcohol consumption. Drinking alcoholic beverages can dehydrate your mouth, which allows bacteria to thrive, warns retired dentist Dr. Richard Price, D.M.D. Hydrate with water often instead.
Stop tobacco use. Smoking and chewing tobacco undermine your oral and overall health. These bad habits can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer.
Keep all dental appointments. Frequent dental checkups and cleanings are vital to maintaining proper oral care. They also will enable your dentist to detect and treat any problems early.