We all know we’re supposed to brush our teeth twice daily. Yet, many of us don’t understand the importance of it and how poor oral hygiene can impact the rest of our bodies.
When you don’t use good oral health habits, like brushing and flossing regularly, you can end up with tooth decay and bad breath. But another serious side effect of poor dental habits is gum disease. Chronic, advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, is irreversible and can spread to the rest of your body.
Decades of research link poor dental habits and gum disease. More recent studies link gum inflammation to diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.
What is gum disease, and what role do your dental habits play in whether you develop it or not? We’ll explain everything you need to know about the link between poor oral hygiene and gum disease here.
1. Understanding Gum Disease
To understand what gum disease is (and what causes it), first, we have to start with how the inside of your mouth works.
The dark, moist innards of the mouth stay healthy because of the balance of saliva and bacteria in there. There’s a difference between good and bad bacteria, and the natural microbes in your mouth are good. They stimulate saliva production, which washes away the food particles and acid in your mouth, getting rid of bad bacteria at the same time.
But when you aren’t cleaning your teeth with regular brushing and flossing, those bacteria form a layer of plaque that, when not removed, hardens and becomes tartar. Tartar and plaque get between the teeth and under the gums, causing decay and gum inflammation, otherwise known as gingivitis.
Pay Attention to the Warning Signs
Gum inflammation and tooth sensitivity are signs that something is going on in your mouth. It may be decaying teeth, or it could be symptoms of a condition called bruxism.
Bruxers grind and clench their teeth, eroding the enamel and stressing the gums. While you work with your doctor to determine how to stop the behaviors, use a custom-made night guard from professionals like JS Dental Lab to prevent the damage from worsening.
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. Symptoms include red, swollen gums that may bleed easily. Right now, it’s reversible with the help of professional treatment. If you don’t take care of the problem quickly, though, it may turn into its more serious counterpart, periodontal disease.
2. Advanced Gum Disease
When you ignore the signs of gingivitis, and it progresses into periodontitis, things start going downhill fast. Periodontitis almost always comes with infected gums, which leads to dangerous problems in the rest of your body.
The thriving bacteria get in under the gum line, causing the tissue to pull away from the teeth and leave open pockets to catch food and debris. Those pockets get infected, forcing the immune system to work harder to keep the infection from spreading.
While your white “nurse” blood cells are working in that area, the connective tissue and bone that keep your teeth securely in place start to degenerate. Without help, the infection becomes too strong to stay contained. You end up with deteriorating bone, loose teeth, and bleeding gums that spread bacteria into the bloodstream.
3. Poor Dental Hygiene, Gum Disease, and Increased Risk of Health Conditions
How do all of these things come together and affect your overall health? Poor dental habits lead to tooth decay, infection, and eventual gum disease. Studies show that advanced gum disease causes bacteria to get into the bloodstream, which exposes important organs, like your heart, to damage.
When bacteria get into your blood, they stick to the platelets, producing blood clots that then reduce blood flow to the heart. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks result.
Other research studies link gum disease to an increased risk of systemic conditions like Alzheimer’s, cancer, respiratory disease, and diabetes.
Most of us try to reduce our chances of developing these deadly issues by staying active and watching our diets. But even with good external habits, if you have gum disease, you’re more likely to end up with the health problems you’re trying to prevent.
So, while eating healthy and exercising are both important, if you aren’t caring for your teeth and gums, too, you could be causing serious damage from the inside out.
Gum disease may sound minor, and it can be an easy fix if you catch it early enough. Yet, when the problem advances because you continue to have poor oral hygiene habits, it creates a domino effect of damage starting in your mouth and spreading to the rest of your body.
Preventing gum disease is a combination of good daily oral hygiene routines and regular professional cleanings and exams. A few minutes a day and a few visits to the dentist a year will reduce your risk of serious health conditions.