Updated: Mar 15
You've been told by your dentist plenty of times that brushing and flossing every day are important in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. But did you know your oral hygiene habits can help prevent other diseases as well?
If not kept at reasonable levels by proper oral care, the bacteria in your mouth can travel to other parts of your body, and may lead to cardiovascular diseases like endocarditis. Conversely, conditions such as diabetes and osteoporosis can put your teeth and gums at risk for infections. Maintaining your oral health through regular dental appointments is important in keeping your whole body healthy. Your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria can cause disease.
Normally the body's natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, keep bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Also, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbes that multiply and lead to disease.
Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some diseases. And certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body's resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), several studies link chronic inflammation from periodontitis with the development of cardiovascular problems. Some evidence suggests that oral bacteria may be linked to heart disease, arterial blockages and stroke.
Given the potential link between periodontitis and systemic health problems, prevention may be an important step in maintaining overall health. Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day. Clean between your teeth with floss or another type of interdental cleaner once a day. Your dentist may recommend using an antimicrobial mouthrinse as part of your daily oral hygiene routine. Choose dental products with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, an important symbol of a dental product’s safety and effectiveness. Eat a balanced diet and limit snacks, which may reduce your risk of developing tooth decay and periodontal disease. Schedule regular dental checkups. Professional cleanings are the only way to remove calculus (tartar), which traps plaque bacteria along the gum line.