Dentist reveals five serious health problems that can come from poor oral hygiene

A macro shot of a molar with a cavity.
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

A leading dentist has revealed the worrying ways that poor oral hygiene could cause serious health issues such as blood poisoning to a stroke.

Many people are aware that not cleaning your teeth often and letting your mouth fall to a poor condition can create a range of problems - such as cavities and gum disease.

However, it isn't as well known that other serious health conditions - such as heart attacks and respiratory issues - can be connected to poor oral hygiene.

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."

Read on below to hear more about the five serious conditions that can stem from not keeping your mouth in a good condition.

Five serious conditions that can stem from poor oral hygiene

1. Heart disease or stroke

Close-up of unrecognizable black woman holding her chest in pain.
Some bacteria carry proteins that promote clots -Credit:Getty

A study from 2019 showed 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 - A build-up of fatty ‘plaque’ thickens the artery walls and reduces blood flow

  • Endocarditis - An infection in the gums that 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.

2. Respiratory problems

Bad bacteria can head through your bloodstream into the lungs which can aggravate the respiratory system and affect your breathing. A study from 2013 - published in the Journal of Medicine and Life - 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.

3. Sepsis

Sepsis is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition where your body reacts to an infection and damages its own tissue. This can arise from untreated infections in the body - including the gums - and can result in organ failure, blood poisoning, amputations and even death.

If an gum or tooth infection reaches the point of a swollen infected mass, it’s essential that you seek emergency attention to avoid the worst possible case scenario.

4. Dementia

Dementia is a general term that is used to refer to cognitive problems that affect your memory and interfere with how the brain functions and interacts with others.

A gum infection can release inflammatory substances that can attack the brain and lead to cell loss. A 2018 study noted that other oral health problems have also been linked to dementia including gingivitis, dental cavities and tooth loss.

5. Digestive problems

The entire digestive process first begins in the mouth when we are eating, and your teeth and saliva play an important role in this system.

If you cannot break down your food into manageable bites using your teeth, the stomach and intestines will then be under more pressure to digest and process nutrients into your system.

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