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Health Conditions Linked to Poor Dental Hygiene Plus Practical Tips on Dental Care

Health Conditions Linked to Poor Dental Hygiene Plus Practical Tips on Dental Care

Neglecting your oral hygiene might seem harmless, but emerging research suggests that inadequate brushing and flossing could cause several seemingly unconnected acute and chronic health issues.1

 

According to Dr. Nigel Carter from the Oral Health Foundation,2This is because the mouth is loaded with bacteria, and while most are harmless, some can cause disease.”

 

While the association between oral bacteria and overall health remains unclear, certain conditions are more closely associated with oral health than others. Here’s what we currently understand:

 

Heart disease 

 

Several studies suggest that individuals with gum disease are up to three times more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke.3

 

Gum disease, or gingivitis, is widespread, affecting around eight in 10 individuals over the age of 35.4 It happens when bacteria accumulate in and around the gum. If this bacteria enters the bloodstream, it can cause the arteries to stiffen, increasing the risk of heart-related issues.

 

According to Dr. Nigel, “If the blood flow is badly affected, this could also lead to a heart attack.”

 

Pneumonia

 

Within minutes of brushing, a film of bacteria called plaque begins to coat the teeth. Lingering plaque has been linked to pneumonia as bacteria from the teeth can be inhaled into the lungs, causing infection.5

 

Symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Productive cough with greenish, yellow, or bloody mucus
  • Fever, sweating, and chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, sharp or stabbing, that gets worse on deep breathing or coughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue or low energy

 

Diabetes

 

Surprisingly, there is a direct relationship between gum disease and diabetes. In fact, individuals with diabetes are more prone to gum disease and vice versa.6

 

Why is this so? Elevated blood sugar levels associated with poorly controlled diabetes can promote the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth. An overgrowth of harmful mouth bacteria can cause several oral infections. 

 

Consequently, oral infections can trigger inflammation in the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels and complicating diabetes management.

 

Dr. Carter says: “If you have diabetes, it is important gum disease is diagnosed – it can lead to poor blood sugar control, raising the risk of complications.”

 

Common diabetes symptoms include:

  • Urinating a lot, especially at night
  • Feeling very thirsty frequently
  • Feeling very tired
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Having numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Having very dry skin

Dementia

 

Recent research suggests that chronic gum disease could increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.7 According to a Taiwan study, people with chronic gum disease for more than a decade were 1.7 times more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease- a common form of dementia.8

 

Scientists have discovered evidence of gum disease-causing bacteria in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, suggesting a potential link between oral health and dementia. Experts believe toxins could enter the brain from the bloodstream, causing long-term damage.9

 

Hence, flossing may be an important oral health habit as you age.

 

Common early symptoms of dementia:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Personality, behavior, or mood changes
  • Loss of ability to do familiar daily tasks
  • Increasing confusion about time and place
  • Apathy and withdrawal or depression

 

How to brush: the right way

 

Maintaining proper oral hygiene is crucial for overall health. Faizan Zaheer, from Bupa Dental Care, offers practical tips on proper dental care:

 

Storage

 

Ensure proper toothbrush hygiene by storing it in a location where it can air dry, avoiding moist environments like the bathroom. 

Faizan explained that toothbrushes left damp for long periods foster bacterial proliferation. Place your toothbrush holder away from the toilet and sink, as flushing can disperse germs into the air.

 

Additionally, it’s advisable to replace your toothbrush every three to four months.

 

Two-minute clean

 

Brush your teeth in the morning and evening using fluoride toothpaste for two minutes each. 

According to Faizan, “If you are very good at brushing, then plaque will not build up, so there will qsbe fewer spots for bacteria to produce acid and cause decay.”

Avoid brushing too vigorously to prevent enamel erosion; instead, apply gentle pressure in a small, circular motion.

 

Don’t Rinse

 

Avoid rinsing after brushing; simply spit out the toothpaste. 

 

Faizan explains that rinsing removes fluoride from the teeth, hindering its ability to strengthen minerals in the enamel.

 

Similarly, you should stop rinsing with mouthwash. Mouthwash usually has a lower fluoride concentration than toothpaste. So, rinsing with mouthwash immediately after brushing dilutes fluoride concentration. 

 

Wait at least a minute after brushing before using mouthwash, or consider using it at a different time of day.

 

Floss Regularly

 

Using floss or miniature interdental brushes effectively eliminates bacteria residing between your teeth.  

 

Insert the dental floss between two teeth, ensuring a firm grip against one tooth, then gently slide it up and down. 

 

Repeat this process for the adjacent tooth in the gap. When the floss reaches your gums, cautiously slide it below the gum line to access those difficult-to-reach areas.

 

References

  1. Tadin A, Poljak Guberina R, Domazet J, Gavic L. Oral Hygiene Practices and Oral Health Knowledge among Students in Split, Croatia. Healthcare (Basel). 2022 Feb 21;10(2):406. doi: 10.3390/healthcare10020406. PMID: 35207018; PMCID: PMC8872387. 
  2. Oral Health Foundation. Dr Nigel Carter OBE- Chief Executive. Oral Health Foundation Website. Retrieved March 15, 2024 from https://www.dentalhealth.org/dr-nigel-carter 
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Gum disease and heart disease: The common thread. Harvard Medical School Website. Retrieved March 15, 2024 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/gum-disease-and-heart-disease-the-common-thread 
  4. European Federation of Peridontology. Dossier on Periodontal Disease. Retrieved March 15, 2024 from https://www.efp.org/publications/EFP_Dossier_on_Periodontal_Disease_2020.pdf 
  5. Paju S, Scannapieco FA. Oral biofilms, periodontitis, and pulmonary infections. Oral Dis. 2007 Nov;13(6):508-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-0825.2007.01410a.x. PMID: 17944664; PMCID: PMC2258093.
  6. Preshaw PM, Alba AL, Herrera D, Jepsen S, Konstantinidis A, Makrilakis K, Taylor R. Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship. Diabetologia. 2012 Jan;55(1):21-31. doi: 10.1007/s00125-011-2342-y. Epub 2011 Nov 6. PMID: 22057194; PMCID: PMC3228943.
  7. Bouziane A, Lattaf S, Abdallaoui Maan L. Effect of Periodontal Disease on Alzheimer’s Disease: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2023 Oct 1;15(10):e46311. doi: 10.7759/cureus.46311. PMID: 37916259; PMCID: PMC10616904.
  8. Chen CK, Wu YT, Chang YC. Association between chronic periodontitis and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease: a retrospective, population-based, matched-cohort study. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2017 Aug 8;9(1):56. doi: 10.1186/s13195-017-0282-6. PMID: 28784164; PMCID: PMC5547465.
  9. Alzheimer’s Association. Oral Health and Alzheimer’s Risk. Retrieved March 15, 2024 from https://www.alz.org/co/news/oral-health-and-alzheimers-risk 
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