Dental CPD Australia

7 Serious Diseases Linked to Poor Oral Hygiene

Oral hygiene, as well as genetics, exercise, nutrition, and personal habits all contribute to maintaining overall well-being and health. The mouth-body connection theory is based on many links to serious diseases due to poor oral hygiene. Here are seven serious diseases that may motivate you to keep brushing your teeth regularly. You can also get some fantastic articles on dental education to keep motivating yourself.

1. Gum Disease

One of the most common diseases due to poor oral hygiene is gum disease, which is when gums become inflamed and the bones supporting your teeth become ultra-sensitive. With plaque buildup, the bacteria infect your gum and teeth, and eventually spread to the gum tissue that supports your teeth, causing them to become loose, fall out, or have to be removed by your dentist. Gum disease causes your body to become “a little bit compromised,” according to the president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, as it can also lead to a host of problems throughout the body.

2. Heart & Cardiovascular Diseases

Many studies indicate that bacteria in the mouth causing gum disease can also develop into more serious cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. Bleeding gums provide an entry to the bloodstream for bacteria in our mouths to travel throughout our entire body. Once bacteria get into the bloodstream, they bind to platelets (which clot blood when you get cuts), which causes clotting inside the blood vessel, increasing the risk of heart attacks. Other cases linked to gum disease include stroke (plaque clogging the blood arteries to the brain), and coronary artery disease.

3. Pancreatic Cancer

A study conducted by Dr. Michaud of Harvard’s School of Public Health provided further evidence pointing to the link between poor oral hygiene and pancreatic cancer. The study found that men with a history of gum disease had a 64% increased risk of pancreatic cancer over their gum disease-free counterparts. Other studies have found links between tooth loss and pancreatic cancer risk, since people with tooth loss experience more inflammation in their gums, which causes the body to produce more reactive proteins. These reactive CRP proteins are part of an early immune system response to persistent inflammation, which has been linked to pancreatic cancer.

4. Dementia

Poor dental health has also been linked to increased risks for developing dementia, particularly in elderly patients. The University of Columbia conducted a study examining patients over the age of 60 and those who had bad oral hygiene scored significantly lower on memory tests, exhibiting a greater risk for dementia. Experts link the spread of bacteria through cranial nerves through the jaw or bloodstream to the brain, contributing to a type of plaque build-up that has been linked to Alzheimer’s.

5. Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Respiratory infection has been linked to bacteria from the mouth. With more than 35 million Americans suffering from some type of respiratory disease, a substantial number of studies document an association between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and poor oral health. Characterized by an obstruction of airflow in the lungs, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Lung Association.

6. Pneumonia

Nearly half of all pneumonia cases are viral in origin. However, Pneumoccal pneumonia is the most serious form of pneumonia and is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, accounting for about 25 to 35% of all community-acquired pneumonia. Women, the elderly, those with pre-existing health conditions, and diabetics have an even higher risk when combined with poor dental hygiene.

7. Rheumatoid Arthritis

With more than 1.3 million Americans suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints, it’s important to explore other possible causes that can lead to this persistent joint pain that affects so many. A study published in the Journal of Periodeontology uncovered another effect of rheumatoid arthritis: poor dental health. Evidence uncovered by examining patients’ plaque accumulation and gingival inflammation showed that rheumatoid arthritis patients were nearly eight times more likely to also have poor dental hygiene. While the correlation between the two conditions may have many other factors, future research may reveal other biological mechanisms that support a more direct link.


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