How Poor Oral Health Can Affect Overall Wellness

  • Healthy mouth, healthier life.

Like a single piece in a giant jigsaw puzzle, your oral health completes your overall wellbeing. A person cannot be truly healthy if they neglect their oral health. In a surprising number of cases, the condition of your mouth can affect the rest of the body as all body parts interlinked with one another. Canadians spend $13 billion a year on diseases or health concerns that could have been avoided with better oral health practices.

The main culprit

Poor oral health begins with the formation of plaque. The root cause of periodontal diseases, plaque is a sticky film of bacteria deposited on the surface of the teeth. It accumulates every time we consume foods or beverages that are rich in sugar (e.g. soda, milk, fruit juice, cakes, and candies). These bacteria feed on sugar and release acids that attack tooth enamel. They can also live deep inside the gums and eat away at the roots of a tooth and the bones supporting it.

 Sugar feeds plaque-causing bacteria.

A balance of bacteria

Harmony between good and bad bacteria is beneficial to your oral health. When the latter outgrows the performer, this leads to teeth and gum problems. Bleeding gums, foul-smelling breath, and aching teeth are all potential warning signs of decreased oral health. Harmful bacteria can also invade your body. It enters the bloodstream and flows through to vital organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, and even the brain, causing a surprising array of infections. Good oral hygiene and regularly scheduled dental checkups are recommended to prevent any health risks linked to oral bacteria.

Keep your oral health in top shape to ward off these health problems:

Oral pathogens can cause inflammation elsewhere

Respiratory illnesses

The mouth is part of the respiratory system, which means the latter can suffer when oral health is compromised. The mouth can become a breeding ground for respiratory pathogens that can infect the lungs once transported through inhalation. These oral pathogens can cause illnesses like acute bronchitis, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Heart disease

Extreme cases of gum disease can result in spreading bacteria to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. Bacteria that reaches the heart may cause inflammation in its muscle tissue. Once the bacteria infects the heart, these diseases can develop:

  • Infective endocarditis – This illness results from the swelling of the inner lining of the heart called the endocardium. Infective endocarditis takes time to develop and is most common among persons with a weak heart.
  • Atherosclerosis – Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) occurs when the arteries (thick tubes that transport blood from the heart to other parts of the body) get clogged with plaque. This causes the arteries to become rigid and restricted, slowing down or stopping the flow of oxygen-rich blood back to the heart. Atherosclerosis can develop into coronary artery disease and lead to increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and hypertension.

P. gingivalis may affect brain function


Recent studies have found a possible link between oral health problems and dementia. Studying brain samples of people with and without dementia, researchers found the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis in people diagnosed with the degenerative disease Alzheimer’s. P. gingivalis is an oral anaerobe that causes the gum disease periodontitis, a condition that damages gum tissues and causes tooth loss. The bacteria’s DNA was also present in spinal fluid, and toxins created by P. gingivalis were also found in the brain tissue samples. Further studies suggested that oral infections were a potential pathway for the bacteria to reach the brain.

While no causal links have yet been proven, researchers suggest that keeping your teeth clean and your gums healthy may help protect your brain.

Diabetes and gum disease impact one another


Patients diagnosed with diabetes are not only at a higher risk of getting gum disease. Once contracted, it might also make it more difficult for people with diabetes to manage their symptoms. Gum disease (or periodontitis) can impact the blood’s ability to control glucose, which may then contribute to the development of diabetes. Patients are also more likely to contract severe gum disease since they are more vulnerable to infection. Proper oral care is essential for those with concerns regarding diabetes.

Kidney problems

Persons with gum disease are at an increased risk of acquiring infections like kidney disease. Similarly to how they affect the heart, oral pathogens can also attack the kidneys of those who suffer from severe dental infections, causing inflammation. The Kidney Foundation of Canada identifies these common symptoms of kidney disease:

  • Tiredness
  • Poor appetite
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing

If you suspect you have kidney disease, consult a doctor right away for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Characterized by the painful swelling of the joints in the fingers, wrists, and toes, rheumatoid arthritis is a disorder where the immune system attacks the tissues of your own body. The National Center for Biotechnology Information found a correlation between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Specifically, inflammation linked to gum disease may contribute to the swelling of the joints in rheumatoid arthritis.

Proper care and regular checkups are the ingredients for oral wellbeing

There are many ways that the bacteria that cause tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health concerns can affect other parts of your body as well. One essential step for protecting your overall health is to maintain a healthy mouth through diet, good habits, and regular care. Follow these oral care tips for a healthier mouth and better overall well-being:

  • Brush daily. Using a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste with fluoride, brush your teeth at least twice a day. Apply gentle pressure and make sure to clean the space where your teeth and gums meet.
  • Floss at least once a day to remove stubborn food particles and bacteria stuck between teeth.
  • Use an anti-bacterial, alcohol-free rinse to flush out disease-causing bacteria.
  • Eat healthily and reduce your sugar intake. Go for nutritious foods like raw vegetables, yogurt, cheese, and fruit. Crunchy vegetables and fruits, like celery or apples, can help remove plaque buildup on your teeth.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Checking in with your dentist helps you keep track of any possible gum disease and treat it before it gets more serious.
  • Have your teeth cleaned regularly. Coordinate with your dentist in identifying the best cleaning schedule that works for you.

When you need expert advice and assistance in improving your oral wellness, call Cosmo Dental Centre at (519) 659-2767. We offer a variety of dental services in London, Ontario.

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