Dentist issues 'vital' warning over link to stroke, sepsis and dementia

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said people were turning to DIY dentistry (Alamy/PA)
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A dentist has revealed the surprising ways poor oral hygiene can affect your general health - from blood poisoning to stroke. Most people know failing to keep your teeth and mouth in good condition can create a range of problems, including cavities and gum disease.

But it is less well-known how other serious health issues, such as heart disease, stroke and respiratory problems can stem from poor oral hygiene, or how to avoid them.

Dr Petar Bago of Dentum said: “Maintaining good oral health is vital not only for our mouths, but for the body as a whole. Our mouths are home to millions of bacteria and while most of them don’t pose a serious health risk, some nasty bacteria can enter the bloodstream via our gums.

“Conditions such as heart disease, stroke, digestive problems and sepsis, otherwise known as blood poisoning, have all been linked to poor oral hygiene. We should see our dentists every six months to make sure our oral hygiene is in good shape and to keep track of any developing problems. It is also recommended to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with toothpaste containing fluoride, as well as regular flossing and the use of mouthwash.”

Five serious conditions that can stem from poor oral hygiene

Heart disease or stroke

Studies have shown that people who have poor oral health have higher rates of cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack or stroke. There are two specific conditions connected to oral health - Atherosclerosis - where a build-up of fatty ‘plaque’ thickens the artery walls and reduces blood flow and Endocarditis -when an infection in the gums can pass into the bloodstream potentially infecting the inner lining of the heart.

Some bacteria carry proteins that promote clots that can clog arteries, leaving the heart at risk of an attack. Meanwhile, it can also clog the carotid artery that circulates blood to the head and brain, leaving us vulnerable to a stroke.

Respiratory problems

Nasty bacteria can travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, where it can aggravate our respiratory systems and affect our ability to breathe. Some studies have even pointed to a link between gum disease and pneumonia and bronchitis. Maintaining consistent oral hygiene routines will help keep bacteria and plaque under control so that they are unable to spread into the respiratory system.

Sepsis

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition where the body reacts aggressively to an infection and damages its own tissue. It can arise from untreated infections in the gum and can result in organ failure, blood poisoning, amputations and even death. If an infection reaches the point of a swollen infected mass, it’s essential that you seek emergency attention to avoid the worst possible case scenario.

Dementia

Dementia is the general term used to refer to cognitive problems which affect memory and interfere with how our brain functions and how we are able to interact with others. Infections in the gum can release inflammatory substances that can aggravate the brain and lead to brain cell loss. Other oral health problems that have been linked to dementia include gingivitis, tooth loss and dental cavies.

Digestive problems

The whole digestive system begins in our mouth when we eat food and our teeth and saliva play a critical role in this process. If for any reason your teeth are not able to break the food down into management morsels, the stomach and intestines are going to be under greater pressure to digest and process the nutrients that are required for the body.