Most of us grow up not really taking heed to warnings about our oral hygiene. I can remember as a child forgetting to brush my teeth many nights before bed. I had no idea how I was putting my life in jeopardy.
Although you probably understand that poor dental care can lead to cavities, did you know that other, more serious health problems can also result from poor oral care? The truth is that if you don’t take proper care of your teeth, you could face far more serious consequences than a simple toothache or some unsightly stains.
- Heart disease: The bacteria from swelling of the gums and periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and travel to the arteries in the heart and cause hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis causes plaque to develop on the inner walls of arteries which thicken and this decreases or may even block blood flow to the body. This can cause an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The inner lining of the heart can also become infected and swollen (a condition known as endocarditis).
- Dementia: I had no idea about this one! The bacteria from gingivitis (swelling of the gums) may enter the brain through either nerve channels in the head or through the bloodstream This may even lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Lung infections: The Journal of Periodontology warns that gum disease could cause you to get infections in your lungs, including pneumonia. While this cause and effect may not be so obvious , think about breathing in bacteria from infected gums and teeth long-term.
- Diabetic complications: Inflammation of the gum tissue and periodontal disease can make it harder to control your blood sugar and make your symptoms from diabetes much worse. Diabetes sufferers are also more susceptible to periodontal disease, which means proper dental care is even more important for diabetics.
As you can see, brushing and flossing keeps more than your teeth healthy — they might also prevent serious illnesses. Poor dental care is also a possible factor in other conditions, such as immune system disorders, weak bones, and problems with pregnancy and low birth weight.
Listen to what Dr. Raymond Gist has to say about disease prevention. He’s been advocating for easier access to dental care for years. He was the first African-American president for the American Dental Association.
Practice Good Hygiene Habits
The obvious: Practicing proper dental care is important in many ways you might not have thought of before. Encourage your family to practice good oral hygiene by brushing after every meal. I prefer a more natural, non-flouride toothpaste, such as Tom’s of Maine. Also floss daily and use a mouth rinse to kill bacteria. You should also visit a dental professional regularly for cleanings and the prevention and treatment of cavities. Doing so can protect more than just your teeth — it can save your life!