In truth, many of us do not pay enough attention to the health of our mouths, particularly the teeth and gums. Some give their teeth only a cursory brushing, often skip brushing, use the wrong brushing technique, and put off seeing a dentist even though they're experiencing discomfort or have damaged or missing teeth. This neglect, however, can have very serious consequences for one's general health.
How is this possible? Research has shown that bacteria from infections in the teeth and gums can travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. A few examples:
- If bacteria reach the heart and valves, they can cause an inflammation called bacterial endocarditis, a complication that is even more serious if the person already has heart disease or damage.
- Since digestion begins in the mouth by way of saliva, bacteria swallowed with chewed food can cause problems in the digestive system in the stomach or intestines. These include disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.
- Women who have periodontal disease are about 7 times more prone to have babies who are premature or underweight than women with healthy gums, because bacteria from the mouth can actually travel to the womb through the placenta into the amniotic fluid.
- Gum disease increases the possibility of blood clot formation that can lead to strokes or heart attacks.
- Bacteria can travel to the site of a joint replacement and cause an infection of the implanted joint that can be difficult for the immune system to overcome.
Within the mouth, poor oral hygiene leads to tooth decay and gum disease. Cavities and decay of the enamel coating weak the teeth, leading to their temporary loss if fills and other repairs are not done in time. Bacteria in the gums leads to gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, which is treatable. If the gingivitis is not practiced early enough, it will progress to periodontitus, which is very serious and irreversible. Also called periodontal disease, it is the stage where the gums recede, the jaw bone becomes diseased and damaged, and the teeth can loosen and fall out.
Most of us have had a toothache or other temporary mouth pain that makes it difficult to eat properly. If such pain becomes chronic, it can lead to poor nutrition because one avoids foods that are painful to eat, and the diet becomes limited and unbalanced. In this way, too, one's general health suffers.
Obviously it's much better to avoid such serious health problems, and it's so simple and easy to do, by simply practicing good dental care. It's also wise to make regular visits to a good affordable dentist . In my companion article, Good Dental Care Begins at Home – Healthy Teeth for a Healthy Life , you will find practical advice for taking the best care of your mouth, teeth and gums.