Poor oral health can have a far more significant impact on your life than toothache can. Nobody wants poor oral health but many of us don’t take proper care of our teeth. You probably know poor oral hygiene increases your risk of gum disease, tooth decay or an oral cavity. You might not be aware, though, that poor dental hygiene can actually increase your risk of a whole host of conditions, including cancers, dementia and heart disease.
Good dental hygiene is essential, not only to prevent oral health conditions but also to protect your overall health. We often think of cleaning our teeth as something we do for a nice smile; the reality is far more complicated. Poor dental hygiene can leave you at risk of several serious conditions.
What is poor oral health?
Poor dental health is associated with a number of symptoms, including gum disease, oral diseases, dental caries and dental plaque. It might be caused by improper oral care and infrequent dental care. Taking care of your teeth is crucial to reduce the risk of oral conditions.
If you don’t care for your teeth properly, you might be experiencing symptoms of poor oral health. Caring for your teeth means flossing daily and brushing twice a day. If you’re not doing that, you probably have poor oral health. Although many people dismiss poor oral health as simply teeth-related, it can affect your general health.
Causes of poor oral health
Common causes of poor dental health are:
- Not taking care of your teeth
- Eating sugary foods
- Not eating enough vitamins and minerals
Suppose you regularly participate in behaviour that damages oral health – for example, smoking and eating sugary foods – and fail to practice proper oral hygiene. In that case, you are likely to have bad oral health. Simply put, your permanent teeth will pay the price for your bad behaviours.
Signs of poor oral health
Signs of poor oral health are:
- Mouth sores
- Gum disease
- Bad breath.
If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, you might want to up your tooth-cleaning game. Try to figure out what the obstacles are for you. If you forget to clean your teeth sometimes because you fall asleep putting your toddler to bed, get into the habit of brushing them before bedtime. If you fail to floss because the floss is tidied away in a drawer, leave it somewhere visible to act as a reminder.
Good oral hygiene can protect you from common chronic diseases, so it’s absolutely worth getting this right. Prioritize oral hygiene to reduce your risk of oral disease and associated health concerns.
How can poor oral health affect the body
Poor oral health can affect the body by disrupting the bacterial balance in your mouth. Your oral microbiome – the collection of bacteria inside your mouth – has a vital role to play in keeping you healthy. With poor oral health, harmful bacteria can build up inside your mouth. Too much bad bacteria can lead to an unhealthy microbiome.
Poor oral health is associated with a lower life expectancy. A 2021 study investigating poor oral health in the US and the UK found that ‘older individuals with poor oral health may have a reduced life expectancy, independent of behavioural and biological factors’.
Health conditions associated with poor oral hygiene
Although this is a relatively new area of research, there is plenty of science linking poor dental hygiene with several health conditions, such as:
A study published in the British Medical Journal found tooth loss was a marker for an increased risk of ischaemic heart disease, heart failure (HF) and peripheral vascular disease.
A 2022 study investigated the link between poor oral health and cognitive decline. The researchers found that tooth loss and poor periodontal health (gum health) were associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
A large study in South Korea published in 2021 concluded gum disease could increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The risk was higher for individuals with gum disease and a metabolic syndrome (for example, heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes).
The researchers stated, ‘The protective effects of dental scaling were evaluated, and the results showed that the patients without periodontal inflammatory disease who underwent dental scaling over five consecutive years had a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease’.
This highlights the importance of proper oral care, particularly regular dental cleaning. A dental hygienist can offer more thorough teeth cleaning, so make sure you visit regularly to protect your oral health.
A 2020 study from Korea found that untreated dental caries (cavities and tooth decay) and missing teeth were associated with an increased risk of pneumonia. The researchers also found that improving oral hygiene was associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia.
Poor oral health has been linked with several cancers, highlighting the importance of protecting all aspects of our health. A Swedish study published in 2018 concluded, ‘tooth-loss and denture-associated lesions are associated with increased risks of gastric cancer. Poor oral health is associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer‘.
There is some controversy over whether periodontal diseases are associated with pregnancy complications. A 2022 review found that treatment for periodontal disease pre-conception can reduce the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including low birth weight and premature birth. Treatment is considered safe during pregnancy, and women are encouraged to visit the dentist regularly during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Diabetes and oral health
Diabetes can affect your oral health. Diabetes and diabetes medicine can reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth. This increases your risk of gum disease and associated health risks. You might also experience increased levels of glucose in your mouth, which can increase your risk of plaque.
Diabetes also increases the risk of tooth loss. Taking extra good care of your teeth if you have diabetes is important to reduce your risk of health problems such as heart disease and kidney disease.
Good oral health
To take care of your teeth, you must practice good oral healthcare. Prioritize oral care as a form of self-care, and visit the dentist regularly. Your dentist is the expert who can spot oral health problems early, so it is essential to attend regular check-ups.
A 2016 study found that stress can affect oral health, as people fail to care properly for their teeth when they feel stressed. It is essential to make oral care a habit – something you do almost without thinking. Investing time in your teeth should be a non-negotiable. Make sure you floss once and brush your teeth twice a day. These daily habits will help keep your mouth healthy, protect your teeth and keep your smile looking its best.
Another way to protect your oral health is to consider the food and drink you consume. Avoid sugary treats that are likely to damage your teeth. Remember, sugar hides in savoury food, too, so always check the labels.
To protect your oral health, you should:
- Floss daily
- Brush twice daily
- Update your toothbrush heads every four months (or when they start to look tatty)
- Limit your intake of sugary foods
- Give up smoking
- Pay regular visits to the dentist.
For more information on protecting your oral health, look at our article Oral Hygiene: 5 Routines Mothers Should Follow.