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Importance of Good Oral Hygiene for Overall Health
While avoiding cavities and various problems with your gums such as infections, these are reason enough to practice good oral hygiene, it seems that how you care for your mouth can affect various other aspects of your health as well. It seems maintaining a healthy mouth may help reduce your risk of several serious health conditions.
Gum Disease and Heart Disease
For at least a century, there has been a suspected link between gum disease and heart disease. A recent review of research suggests that there may be a possible link but clear causation has not been established. Available information, however, makes it prudent to investigate further. There are two main theories as to how gum disease may contribute to heart disease.
One theory proposes that organisms in your mouth enter the bloodstream when your gums bleed – which happens quite easily and frequently with gum disease—and attach to fatty deposits in the coronary arteries; in turn, they cause inflammation which lead to blood clots, which then triggers a heart attack. This theory is based on research that has found specific bacteria found in the mouth showing up in these fatty deposits.
The second theory posits that these same bacteria lead to the production of antibodies—substances that fight off harmful invaders—that attack the cells lining the blood vessels, leading to inflammation; inflammation is a major contributor to the development of the fatty deposits that cause blockages in the arteries.
Other Conditions Linked to Gum Disease
Unhealthy gums may be a contributing factor to other conditions as well. The persistent state of infection may lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. Australian researchers found that women who had gum disease were more likely to give birth preterm or have low birth weight babies. The mouth can also act as a reservoir for bacteria linked to stomach ulcers and lung infections. Recent research has also uncovered potential links to infertility and erectile dysfunction.
As it stands now, there is not enough research to draw any firm conclusions on the role of gum disease in the development of other diseases and conditions. But, the inflammation, infection and presence of harmful bacteria certainly is not a good thing and it is easy to see how gum disease could be an aggravating factor in poor health. Even if it had no connection, it is still not good for your mouth, so it would behoove you to practice good oral hygiene regardless.
Tips for Good Oral Hygiene
The key to avoiding gum disease is keeping plaque from getting under the gum line. Brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes. Floss daily. Many medications increase the risk of gum problems so if you are taking said medications, you must be extra diligent. Get regular dental check-ups, especially if you have conditions that make gum disease more likely, such as diabetes. Use an antimicrobial mouth rinse for extra protection against plaque. Oral irrigators can help remove food from between your teeth but it is not a substitute for brushing and flossing.