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Need a Reason to Brush? 5 Serious Diseases Linked to Poor Oral Health

An alarming number of people have poor oral health that's directly related to poor oral hygiene and lack of dental care. This is especially true in economically disadvantaged communities. In addition to cavities, gum disease and tooth loss, poor oral health can contribute to a wide range of diseases, some of them life threatening.

If you forget to brush or neglect integral parts of an oral hygiene routine, such as flossing and rinsing, you're at risk for developing poor oral health. Shockingly, an unhealthy mouth can lead to, contribute to or exacerbate the following conditions.

1. Heart Disease

Poor oral hygiene has been linked to several cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke. The cause is twofold. First, chronic inflammation in the gums can spread to other areas of the body, including the heart. What's more, oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system. Following are just a couple of diseases to worry about:

  • Endocarditis refers to inflammation of the inner lining of the heart and is caused by systemic inflammation.
  • Atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries, can be caused by inflammation and bacteria. It is the main cause of heart attack and stroke.

Those with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular issues as those with good oral health.

2. Respiratory Disease

Harmful bacteria in the mouth only have a short distance to travel to the lungs where they can cause a host of serious lung conditions, such as infection and pneumonia. Repeated lung infections can also lead to chronic, incurable conditions, such as COPD.

​If you develop a lung condition, poor oral health may make it more difficult to treat. For this reason, people with lung conditions should practice thorough oral hygiene.

3. Diabetes

​Poor oral health and diabetes, a condition that causes high blood sugar, are inexorably linked. In fact, 22 percent of diabetics also have periodontal disease because diabetes can cause all sorts of oral problems, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • ​Inflamed gums
  • Delayed wound healing
  • ​​​Mouth sores and infections

Dry mouth and inflammation can increase your chances of developing cavities and gum disease. If you experience any oral symptoms associated with diabetes, it's crucial that you talk to your dentist and follow a proper oral hygiene routine.

4. Rheumatoid Arthritis

​The instances of rheumatoid arthritis increase along with poor oral health, studies show. Those with extreme tooth loss due to periodontal disease are more likely to be diagnosed with RA. A study following people with early onset arthritis, showed that 24 percent of the participants had 10 or fewer teeth. The study also showed that those with fewer teeth experienced more symptoms and their disease progressed faster than those who had more teeth.

Gum disease and arthritis have something in common: inflammation. If you have both diseases, you need to address the inflammation at the same time to keep one condition from exacerbating the other.

5. Dementia

​Studies have suggested that harmful bacteria associated with gum disease can travel to the brain, become lodged there and play a role in brain changes linked to dementia. Changes are attributed to cell loss that occurs during the immune response.

If you have a buildup of harmful bacteria in your mouth, it can enter your bloodstream through your inflamed and damaged gums. The simple act of brushing your teeth, if you don't get professional cleanings to remove plaque, could further push the bacteria into your bloodstream.

Proper oral hygiene includes a professional cleaning every six months. If you're due for a cleaning or a preventative examination, call Signature Smiles Family Dentistry today to make an appointment.