National Dental Hygiene Month: The Ripple Effect of Oral Health
All of that brushing, flossing and mouthwashing you do on a daily basis doesn’t just give you pearly whites and fresh breath (although that’s probably the main reason you do them), it also has far-reaching health effects throughout your body. This October, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) is discussing proper oral care as part of National Dental Hygiene Month. And you should pay attention to what they have to say.
Without proper dental hygiene, the bacteria that naturally occur in your mouth could build up, causing infections and inflammation that may lead to problems throughout your entire body. In fact, people with serious gum disease are 40 percent more likely to suffer from a chronic condition. Serious medical problems associated with poor oral health include:
- Cardiovascular disease: Inflammation and infections from oral bacteria may cause inflammation in the blood vessels, contributing to heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke.
- Diabetes: Inflammation that starts in the mouth may hinder the body’s ability to use insulin and control blood sugar. And high blood sugar also provides the ideal conditions for gum infections to grow, creating an unhealthy cycle.
- Endocarditis: This condition typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from elsewhere in the body (aka the mouth) spread throughout the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas of the heart.
- Osteoporosis: Weak and brittle bones throughout the body may be associated with bone loss around teeth and tooth loss itself.
- Pregnancy: Periodontitis (a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth) has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
The health implications for improper dental care are scary, but it couldn’t be easier to give your mouth the TLC it deserves! Just follow the four steps of good oral health maintenance:
- Brush: Brush two minutes, two times a day, every day.
- Floss: Work hard to make flossing a daily habit.
- Rinse: Use an anti-microbial mouthwash.
- Chew: Chew sugar-free gum after eating to fight tooth decay.
Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass