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Dental Hygiene and the Link to Systemic Disease

3 May 2017

Dental Hygiene and the Link to Systemic Disease

When we think of bad dental hygiene, we usually associate it with bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. While those are all problems that do emanate when our oral care is not up to date, unfortunately they are not the only ones. Studies have discovered that bad oral health can both lead to systemic diseases and be a symptom for some of them. Let’s now take a look at a few facts to properly understand the link between dental hygiene and various systemic diseases.

As a Symptom

The bacteria responsible for forming plaque in our mouth are also the prime culprits behind periodontal diseases that infect the gum and the cementum. An increase in the population of the bacteria can be a symptom of diabetes that is going out of control. Dry mouth is a common problem faced by diabetics and that’s exactly what leads to the problem. Additionally, kidney disease, pancreatic cancer, leukaemia, many forms of oral cancers, heart disease and even Alzheimer’s can be the reason behind periodontal diseases.

If you observe any of the symptoms below, contact your doctor and your dentist immediately:

  • Swollen red gums that hurt and bleed
  • Gum that pulls away from the teeth easily
  • Loose, painful and separating teeth
  • Changes in the structure and alignment of your teeth’s setting
  • Pus in gum or teeth
  • Chronic bad breath

As a Reason

In addition to being a symptom, periodontal diseases can themselves lead to heart diseases (bacterial endocarditis), pneumonia, strokes, intestinal disorders, IBS and chronic digestive issues. The mouth serves as the most important entry point to our body and is regularly subjected to more pathogens than any other place. Therefore, on failing to keep it as clean as necessary the pathogens can make their way to other parts of the body as well.

For example, someone who already has had heart issues is susceptible to bacterial endocarditis. This is a condition responsible for inflammation of the heart and bad dental hygiene has been proven to be the prime reason behind it. When oral bacteria manage to enter the blood stream, they attach to the fatty deposits found in our blood vessels and over time, this may lead to blood clots and consequent strokes.

What Can We Do?

While it goes without saying that primary habits for dental hygiene like brushing twice a day, flossing and rinsing are mandatory, those may not be enough. Consider the following additional steps to ensure that your mouth is as healthy as it can be and even if something does pop up, it never goes unnoticed.

  • Visit the dental hygienist twice a year or more if indicated by your dentist
  • Maintain a diet rich in vitamin A and C
  • Avoid unhealthy food; apart from making you gain fat, it also affects your dental health
  • Avoid chewing tobacco or smoking
  • Sign up for reputed medical blogs like Healthcare News to stay updated with the latest findings in dental science
  • Don’t skip your appointment with the dentist

Maintaining proper dental health is a lifelong process and neglecting it for even a few days can have detrimental effects on your entire body. As you can see, the importance of dental hygiene goes far beyond the mouth and is directly responsible for the well being of our entire body.

Bio: Dr Nissit Patel (BDS (London) MClindent (Prosthodontics) (London)) is the Principal Dentist and Prosthodontist at Progressive Dentistry a private dental practice in Fulham, London.

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