Taking care of your teeth and gums is not only important for your oral health, but your overall health, too. Poor oral health can have a number of consequences that aren’t just limited to your teeth and gums. When it comes to ensuring your overall health, it’s important to maintain the health of your mouth.
Consequences of Poor Oral Health
Of course, the direct consequences of poor oral health will be seen in the health of your teeth and gums. Failing to maintain good oral hygiene can lead to various oral issues, including gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss.
The early stages of gum disease are known as gingivitis. Signs you might be developing gingivitis include:
- Bleeding gums
- Inflamed or puffy gums
- Dark red gums
- Bad breath
- Receding gums
- Tender or painful gums
It’s important to catch gingivitis early because gingivitis can be reversed before it causes further damage to your mouth. If it’s left untreated, however, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis.
Periodontitis is advanced gum disease. It’s a severe infection of the gums that progressively destroys your mouth’s soft tissue. Eventually, it destroys the bone that supports your teeth and can lead to tooth loss.
Tooth decay, also known as cavities, can occur when you fail to maintain good oral health and hygiene. If food particles aren’t brushed away, the sugars in the food we eat mix with the bacteria in our mouth. The bacteria produce an acid that eats away at our teeth, causing tooth decay.
When tooth decay or cavities are caught early, they can be treated with dental fillings. Fillings help prevent the tooth decay from spreading further and alleviate the pain cavities can cause.
If cavities aren’t treated, the decay will continue to spread, and can eventually cause a tooth abscess. A tooth abscess happens when the inside of the tooth becomes infected. If the infection isn’t treated, it will continue to spread, causing infection of the jaw bone and ultimately, tooth loss.
Tooth loss can be the ultimate consequence of advanced gum disease and tooth decay and it comes with its own set of problems. Missing teeth can lead to trouble eating, difficulty speaking, and changes in your face shape and appearance.
If the tooth loss is substantial, it can even cause bone loss in the jaw. If you have missing teeth, it’s important to have the spaces restored to help prevent the side effects of tooth loss.
Links Between Oral Health & Overall Health
The links between poor oral health and other negative health outcomes have been debated for years. While poor oral health isn’t the only factor in determining your overall health, poor oral health can be a risk factor in developing other illnesses.
Excessive bacteria in your mouth can travel into your lungs and airways causing respiratory infections and illnesses. Some sinus infections can result from oral infections and vice versa.
Sometimes, toothaches can be caused by sinus infections, whereas bacteria from oral infections can travel from the mouth into the sinuses, leading to a sinus infection. In more severe cases, oral conditions like periodontal disease have been linked with pneumonia.
Gum disease has been linked with cardiovascular disease, although many think it’s due to correlation rather than causation. Some theories speculate that bacterial toxins that are present in the gums can travel throughout the bloodstream, leading to blood vessel inflammation and damage.
Other factors may also be at play. Smoking, for example, can lead to negative oral and overall health outcomes. Smoking increases your risk of gum disease, lung disease, and heart disease and could be responsible for the link between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease in some cases.
Maintaining Your Oral Health
Taking care of your oral health is an important part of your overall health. Basic oral hygiene can go a long way. Make sure you’re brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and don’t forget to floss.
Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are another important part of maintaining good oral health. It’s an opportunity for your dentist to assess your oral health and catch serious issues early before they progress.