Serious Diseases Good Oral Hygiene Can Prevent

Practicing good dental hygiene — brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing to remove any remnants of food between the teeth — has benefits beyond giving you a beautiful smile and bright, white teeth.

Like other parts of the human body, our mouths contain bacteria, most of which are harmless. But the mouth is the portal to our digestive and respiratory systems, and the germs in our mouths can spread to them and make us sick.

Serious Diseases Good Oral Hygiene Can Prevent

Regular brushing, combined with the body's natural defenses, protects the body from bacteria by maintaining oral hygiene. But suppose we don't take care of our teeth. In that case, this bacteria can accumulate, leading to cavities — a form of tooth decay caused by weakening enamel that, if left untreated, can destroy the teeth — and gum disease, known as periodontitis.

Saliva also plays an important role in maintaining oral hygiene, cleaning the mouth of food debris and neutralizing acids that cause bacteria in the oral cavity. Like blood, it contributes to the well-being of healthy tissue. Some properties of saliva include:

  • Provides substances that combat disease in the mouth to help prevent cavities and other infections
  • Helps strengthen the teeth, providing high levels of calcium ions, fluoride, and phosphate

Some medications, such as painkillers, antidepressants, and allergy drugs can reduce the level of saliva, indirectly affecting its ability to protect the mouth.

Poor oral health can lead to a higher risk of developing a number of conditions, including:

Endocarditis. This is a rare but life-threatening inflammation of the lining inside your heart's chambers and valves. It's caused by germs that are carried through the bloodstream from other parts of the body. When it reaches the heart, the bacteria start to multiply and cause infection.

Heart disease. Scientists still aren't sure what the connection is, but research shows a link between poor oral health and heart disease, clogged arteries, and heart attacks. The relationship between oral bacteria, inflammation, and infection is currently being studied.

Pneumonia. This refers to an infection in one or both lungs that causes the air sacs to fill with fluid or pus. Pneumonia can be mild or severe, depending on the type of bacteria that caused the infection and a person's age and their general state of health. Germs in the mouth can travel to the lungs, leading to pneumonia and other respiratory infections.

Pregnancy and birth complications. If bacteria in the mouth make it into the bloodstream, they can reach the fetus, increasing the risk of premature birth and potentially affecting the baby's birth weight.

A regular visit to the dentist is the best way to avoid not only oral disease but others that can be even more serious.

Among the recommendations for maintaining a healthy mouth and teeth, experts suggest:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Replacing your toothbrush every three months
  • Using dental floss
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet, eliminating sugary drinks and any foods that have a high sugar content
  • Seeing a dentist regularly

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