Poor dental hygiene can have side effects that extend far beyond your appearance. Although neglecting dental hygiene can result in a less-than-impressive smile due to discolored teeth, not taking care of your teeth and gums may result in serious health problems as well.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why it happens, but people who suffer from gum disease are more than twice as likely to suffer from heart disease as those who don’t. One theory is that harmful bacteria enters the bloodstream through the gums of those with periodontitis and attaches to arterial plaque. That in turn can result in inflammation that increases the risk of blood clots and an accompanying heart attack.
The connection isn’t definitive, and some attribute the link between periodontitis and heart disease to the fact that people who pay more attention to their dental health may pay more attention to other aspects of their health as well. In other words, those who brush and floss regularly may also be more inclined to exercise regularly and watch what they eat.
There may also be other factors at work, such as increased stress that results in an overall neglect of health, including the health of your teeth and gums.
Heart disease isn’t the only health problem that may be linked to poor dental hygiene. There is also evidence that gum disease may be related to other health issues including diabetes and dementia. And the same factors that may contribute to heart disease may result in an increased risk of stroke as well.
Researchers at Columbia University have found a relationship between gum disease and arterial plaque in the arteries in your neck. As with the heart, this plaque buildup can decrease blood flow to the brain and result in clots that may lead to a stroke.
So how can you minimize the potential health risks of poor dental hygiene? The main steps to take are to brush and floss regularly as well as have regular dental checkups. Bleeding gums is one of the main indicators or periodontitis, so if your gums bleed when you eat or brush your teeth you should visit your dentist as soon as possible.
If you have heart problems, it’s important that you make your dentist aware of those issues as well as what medications you may be taking. Doing so will enable your dentist to coordinate medications and treatment with your physician. In addition, take all of your medications as prescribed and follow the advice of your physician and dentist.