man stretching outsideMost people know that poor oral hygiene can lead to local dental problems like bad breath, tooth decay, and cavities. However, not everyone realizes that their oral hygiene habits can have a pretty major impact on the rest of the body.

That’s right. Your oral health can affect the overall health of your body. Brushing, flossing, and scheduling regular dental exams not only maintain the health of your teeth and gums, but these healthy habits also protect your general health and wellbeing.

How Oral Health Connects to Overall Wellness

Poor oral hygiene leads to poor oral health and an influx of bacterial growth in the mouth.

Bacteria and the Body

Our mouths – even the healthiest – are filled with bacteria, and these bacteria are the primary way a person’s oral health can affect their overall health. Although most of the bacteria in the average mouth are harmless, some can cause disease and/or generalized inflammation.

If harmful bacteria make their way into the digestive tract or respiratory system from the mouth, they can cause various infections. If bacteria in the mouth enter the bloodstream, they can harm the entire body.

The Effects of Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease) on the Body

Periodontal disease is characterized by a bacterial infection of the gum tissues surrounding the teeth. Periodontal disease develops when plaque and tartar accumulate on the teeth along the gum line, creating pockets between the teeth and gums where harmful bacteria thrive.

As gum disease worsens, it advances into a more severe condition called periodontitis which occurs when the infection has reached the connective tissues called the periodontal ligaments that tether the teeth to the jawbone. At this advanced stage, the structure of a person’s teeth and the integrity of the jawbone can become compromised by the acids produced by the bacteria.

Left unaddressed, periodontal disease causes local symptoms such as:

  • persistent bad breath and/or a bad taste in the mouth
  • red, swollen, and bleeding gums
  • receding gums
  • tender or painful gums
  • loose teeth
  • tooth loss
  • tooth and bone decay
  • tooth sensitivity
  • malocclusion or changes to the bite

Additionally, bacteria from periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, causing generalized inflammation and damaging organs.

Although the exact connection is not yet fully understood, periodontal disease has been associated with an increased risk of the following systemic health problems:

  • Cardiovascular disease (hardening of the arteries, stroke, heart attack)
  • Endocarditis (infection of the lining of heart valves and chambers)
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Diabetes
  • Reproductive problems
  • Premature births and low birth weight infants
  • Kidney disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Cancer

Could You Be At Risk of Developing Periodontal Disease?

According to the CDC, 47.2% of individuals 30 years or older and 70.1% of individuals 65 years or older have some form of periodontal disease. While everyone has some risk of potentially developing gum disease, there are certain factors that can increase an individual’s risk including:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Diabetes
  • Dry mouth
  • Heredity
  • Hormonal changes due to pregnancy or oral contraceptive use
  • Ill-fitting dental bridge
  • Immune system deficiencies
  • Old, compromised fillings
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Stress
  • Tobacco use

Although certain risk factors cannot be controlled, taking steps to limit those that can be controlled will help you reduce your risk of harboring harmful bacteria in your mouth.

How to Limit Oral Bacteria, Prevent Periodontal Disease, and Safeguard Your Health

Once developed, periodontal disease can be treated with scaling and root planing treatments, and its progression can be slowed with more frequent dental cleanings. However, when it comes to protecting your oral health and overall health, prevention is always the best strategy.

Practicing impeccable oral hygiene habits is the best way to prevent gum disease and control the bacteria living in your mouth. Brush and floss at least twice a day to remove food particles and plaque from the surfaces of your teeth. If you have already developed gum disease, you can also talk with our dentist about adding an antibacterial mouth rinse to your daily dental routine.

Minimizing your intake of sugary foods and beverages can also help limit the bacterial growth in your mouth, as bacteria feed on the sugars in our diets. When you do eat sugary food, be sure to rinse your mouth with water after you finish or chew a piece of sugar-free gum to promote saliva production that will wash away the sugar and acids and help to remineralize your tooth enamel.

Additionally, it’s essential to visit the dentist regularly for cleanings and examinations to have your teeth scaled and polished to remove calculus buildup.

Schedule Your Next Dental Cleaning and Exam with Our Medford Dentist

In addition to brushing and flossing regularly, you can safeguard your teeth, gums, and overall good health by maintaining a regular schedule of cleanings and dental exams. Regular dental cleanings and exams help keep your teeth free from the tartar and plaque that lead to periodontal disease. Plus, regular dental appointments ensure our dentist is able to detect and treat any problems as soon as they begin developing.

At Stiles Dental Care in Medford, NJ, we provide patients with effective wellness and preventative services in addition to a comprehensive list of cosmetic, restorative, and general dentistry services. We recommend that healthy adults schedule one to two dental exams annually. We might recommend more frequent visits for patients who are at a high risk of developing periodontal disease, who have already developed some form of gum disease, or who have additional oral health concerns.

To learn more about how dental health can affect your overall health or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Stiles, we welcome you to contact our dental office today.