The Connection Between Dental Hygiene and Overall Health

There are many reasons why it’s important to stay on top of your oral health, keep your teeth clean, and visit your dentist on a regular basis. First and foremost, as an adult, you only get one full set of natural teeth – and once they’re gone, or damaged, or broken, then that’s it. 

Secondly, oral hygiene contributes towards the maintenance of a gleaming white smile – and for most of us, that smile is directly connected with self-confidence and how we feel about our own reflection.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, dental hygiene is intrinsically linked with overall health – not just in relation to gum disease and other localised issues in and around the mouth, but spanning the entire body. In fact, contrary to popular belief, gum disease is directly connected with a vast array of other issues and diseases, affecting the heart, lungs, blood, and even the brain.

In this blog, we’re looking at the importance of dental hygiene through the lens of your overall health and wellbeing – sharing the conditions that gum disease and bad dental hygiene can contribute towards. 

Why is oral hygiene so closely linked with the rest of the body?

Oral hygiene is an interesting area to study, primarily because the mouth is the body’s window – and most obvious entry point – to the outside world. Bacteria is rife in and around the mouth, and when you don’t practise good oral hygiene and effective teeth cleaning to keep on top of that bacteria and to keep it at bay, it can lead to issues such as gum disease, tooth decay, and worse. 

The fact is that, when you aren’t taking the steps to alleviate and rid the mouth of bacteria, that bacteria multiplies and makes its way into the body directly. This impacts the body’s natural defences, exposing you to increased issues, while minimising the body’s ability to fight the spread of bacteria further. 

And it’s not just bad oral hygiene that exacerbates and leads to other issues in the body – the same is true of the reverse. 

There are some conditions that our clients and patients live with that impact oral hygiene. For example, if someone is living with diabetes, which reduces their natural ability to fight infection, they are more prone to issues like gum disease, which in turn creates more issues for their overall health.

To cut a long story short, a lack of dental hygiene can have a serious and debilitating effect on your overall health and wellbeing – but that’s not to say that there aren’t existing conditions that play their own role in halting good dental hygiene.

Keep reading to find out some of the conditions and issues that can be caused or exacerbated by poor dental hygiene, before learning some tips to keep your mouth – and body – in the best possible health.

What conditions and diseases are impacted by bad oral hygiene?

Health challenges can occur, or be made worse, when poor oral hygiene allows bacteria to enter the body – travelling via the bloodstream to different areas of the body. 

One of the more serious conditions that is linked to poor oral hygiene is heart disease. A study conducted by the British Heart Foundation found that those with moderate gum disease were up to 69% more likely to develop coronary heart disease, through the portal of increased exposure to diabetes. This is because, when the body is fighting or experiencing gum disease, its natural defences are lowered, and it becomes harder to control your blood sugar – not to mention that the increase in bacteria on and around the teeth allows bacteria to enter and travel through the bloodstream. Once in the heart, this bacteria can cause inflammation that increases the damage to blood vessels – leading to, or worsening, heart issues. 

This also links to a condition called endocarditis, which is inflammation of the lining of the heart through infection. This can be fatal if left untreated, and is directly connected to dental bacteria specifically. 

Other conditions that are known to be linked with poor oral and dental hygiene include pneumonia and birth complications. Pneumonia and other respiratory diseases are caused by the bacteria being drawn down into the lungs, directly infecting and causing inflammation throughout the body’s breathing systems. 

And, to return to the reverse for a moment, all of this is made worse when conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes are also seen in the patient or individual – because such conditions make good oral hygiene even more difficult to maintain. This creates a cause-and-effect cycle of damage when left unresolved. 

Tips to enhance your dental hygiene for the sake of your wellbeing

So, how can you take control of your dental hygiene and improve your overall wellbeing?

The most obvious thing to do is adopt a dental hygiene routine, which includes brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day, for at least two minutes. Using a fluoride toothpaste is important to secure the best possible clean, while flossing removes plaque and helps to minimise the risk of a plaque and bacteria build-up affecting the enamel and natural barrier on your teeth. 

Another recommended tip is to visit your dentist regularly, so that any structural issues with your teeth can be treated effectively to minimise further damage and bacteria from getting into your bloodstream. Fillings and crowns can be fitted to ensure that enamel damage does not allow harmful bacteria to penetrate the tooth and cause pain as well as other health conditions. 

Finally, a change to daily habits and an acknowledgement of the significance of a healthy and balanced diet is important for retaining and maintaining the health of your teeth throughout adulthood. Sugary foods should be minimised where possible, and your teeth should be cleaned after consuming very acidic foods and drinks that can affect the stability of the protective enamel on your teeth.

If you’re in any doubt about the effectiveness of your own oral hygiene routine, or you need specific advice and support for underlying issues or conditions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local dentist.