How poor Oral Hygiene can NEGATIVELY impact your Overall Health
Most people think that not brushing and flossing will lead to cavities at worst, but actually, what very few people realise is that it can have a huge negative impact on your overall health, and many health complaints can be as a direct result of poor oral health. The simple fact is that you could be facing much more serious consequences than toothache and unsightly stains if you do not take care of your Oral Hygiene.
Just like everything when it comes to our health, proper education is so important. We should be brushing our teeth for two minutes every time we brush, but the truth is that most adults do not even come close to brushing for this length of time. Follow these simple steps, from leading toothpaste provider Colgate, to ensure that you are maintaining proper oral hygiene.
You should be brushing your teeth at least twice a day, with toothpaste that contains fluoride, for at least two minutes. You should ensure that you are doing this first thing in the morning and before you go to bed. On top of brushing, you should be flossing daily as well. Although you can do this any time of day, it is recommended to floss your teeth at bedtime. You should be mindful of when you eat snacks each day, and finally, you should be visiting your dentist every six months for an exam, and a professional clean.
We briefly mentioned limiting the number of snacks each day, and being mindful of when you eat them. This is because acidic food and drink will soften the enamel of your teeth, and brushing them immediately after you have consumed them it increases the chances of this enamel being eroded. This can be prevented though, and you should rinse your mouth out with water after eating and drinking and do not brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after eating and drinking.
Brushing thoroughly half an hour after you have eaten will help to remove food particles and dental plaque that will damage teeth and gums over time. Flossing will help to remove any food that is stuck in hard to reach areas in between the teeth.
Your mouth can reveal a lot about your health
As well as poor oral hygiene leading to some health problems, which we will discuss in more detail later on, it can also give hints about your existing health. Obtaining just a small swab of your saliva can tell health professionals huge amounts of what is going on with your body.
Many very serious health conditions, such as AIDS or diabetes often start in the mouth. In fact, more than ninety percent of all systemic diseases can produce oral signs and symptoms.
What health problems can be a direct cause of poor oral health?
If left untreated, this can be a really serious health problem. Essentially, it is an infection of the heart’s valves or lining. This area is known as endocardium, hence the name of the condition. It can lead to permanent heart damage, so it is imperative that this problem is treated as soon as possible.
It is caused when bacteria from another part of your body spreads throughout your bloodstream and then attaches to your heart. Poor oral hygiene will cause the bacteria to grow and cause infections in your mouth, which can then travel to your heart, causing the endocarditis.
The illness can develop slowly or very quickly, depending on whether you have any underlying heart problems. Although the symptoms can vary from person to person, generally the things that you should be looking out for are; flu-like symptoms including fever and chills; a new or changed heart murmur; extreme fatigue; aching joints and muscles; night sweats; shortness of breath; chest pain when you breathe; and swelling in your feet, legs or abdomen. Less common symptoms also include; unexplained weight loss; blood in your urine; tenderness in your spleen; Janeway lesions, which look like red spots in the soles of your feet or the palms of your hands; Osler’s nodes, which are red, tender spots under the skin of your fingers or toes; and finally Petechiae, which are tiny purple or red spots on the skin, whites of your eyes, or the inside of your mouth.
Another problem caused by poor oral hygiene is an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, or heart disease.
This again can be caused by the bacteria that is found as a result of inflamed gums, and periodontal disease, entering your bloodstream. From here, it can then travel to the arteries in the heart, which then cause them to harden. It is this that increases the risk of a heart attack or strokes.
DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMER’S:
In the same way that bacteria from your mouth can enter your heart, it can enter your brain in the same type of way. It travels through the nerve channels or bloodstream.
A study, that was published in the Journal of Neurology & Psychiatry showed that adults with gingivitis actually performed worse on tests of memory and cognitive skills than those with good oral hygiene. There are also strong links between gingivitis and dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of dementia can often be hard to spot, particularly by yourself, but there are certain things to look out for. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is really important to make an appointment with your GP to discuss the next steps; memory loss, especially short-term memory loss is one of the earliest symptoms of dementia; difficulty performing tasks that were once familiar. People who have been diagnosed with dementia often have difficulty completely familiar everyday tasks – for example, they might not know what order to put their clothes on, or the steps for preparing a meal; problems with language, for example forgetting simple words or substitutes unusual words, which can make it difficult to communicate or to write anything; disorientation to time and place. Whilst everyone gets muddled as to which day it is from time to time, it is much more frequent for those with dementia. They can become lost in familiar places, like the road that they are living in, or forget how to get home when they have left the house. It is also possible to get confused between night and day; poor or decreased judgement, such as wearing many layers on a warm day; problems keeping track of things, like a conversation or paying their bills; misplacing things, or putting items in unusual places; changes in mood or behaviour, an emotional person might suddenly not show as much emotion, or might experience very rapid mood swings; a change in personality. This could be that they seem suspicious, irritable, depressed or anxious; finally, there might be a loss of initiative, becoming very passive, or lose interest in hobbies they had previously enjoyed.
If you are concerned that you or someone you love is experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your GP, who will be able to advise you further.
Gum disease and diabetes are both related and will have a negative effect on each other. If you have inflamed gums and gum disease, this makes it much more difficult for your body to control its blood sugar, but if you already suffer from diabetes, it will reduce your resistance to infection, putting your gums at greater risk for periodontal disease.
So, if you are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, or you already have it, it is absolutely essential that you have good oral hygiene.
COMPLICATIONS IN PREGNANCY AND BIRTH:
Bad oral hygiene can have devastating effects on expectant mothers, so it is so important if you are pregnant, or hoping to have a baby soon that your oral hygiene is on top form.
Bacteria from a mother’s mouth can be transmitted through the blood, not only potentially causing her the above health complaints, but it can also be transmitted through the amniotic fluid and then coming into contact with her unborn child.
This can have a lot of serious implications, such as a premature delivery, low birth weight when the baby is born, premature onset of contractions, or even resulting in the newborn baby contracting a nasty infection.
The fact of the matter is that simple improvement of their oral hygiene could significantly reduce these complications from happening, thus improving the health and welfare of both mother and baby.
On top of heart problems, poor oral hygiene can also cause respiratory problems. This is because once again, the bacteria from the infected teeth and the swollen gum, which are all signs of gum disease can be transferred to the lungs when we breathe or transported via the bloodstream.
Once these bacteria have come into contact with the respiratory system, it can cause a whole host of respiratory problems, like pneumonia, and bronchitis, which can have long-lasting health implications if they are left untreated for a long period of time.
Signs of gum disease
Now you know how important your oral health is to your overall health, and how you should be looking after your teeth, it is also worth knowing what you should be looking out for that would indicate that you have not been doing this so well.
If you have healthy gums, they will be pink and firm, and keep your teeth securely in place. Just like all of the adverts tell us as well, they should not bleed at all when you touch them or brush them. You would think gums that did not fit this bill would be incredibly painful, but this is not always the case. Gum disease is not actually always painful, and you might completely be unaware that you have it. This is why it is so important to have regular check-ups with your dentist, who can catch any early signs that you might have missed.
The initial stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, and symptoms include; red and swollen gums and bleeding gums after you have brushed or flossed your teeth. This can be treated at this stage, and it can be reversible; however, if this is left untreated, the tissues and bone that support the teeth can become affected, which is more commonly known as periodontitis. Symptoms of this can include; bad breath, an unpleasant taste in your mouth, loose teeth which could make eating difficult and gum abscesses.
In very extreme cases, if your gum disease is left untreated, it can develop into a condition called acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis, which can develop suddenly, and must be treated. Symptoms of this include; bleeding and painful gums; painful ulcers; receding gums in between your teeth; bad breath; a metallic taste in your mouth; excessive saliva in your mouth; difficulty swallowing or talking; and a high temperature.