The inside of your mouth hosts all sorts of bacteria. Thanks to your immune system and acid-neutralising saliva, they don’t do too much damage to your health. But if you have poor oral health habits, bacteria can cause infections, like tooth decay and gum disease.
Only four in 10 Singaporeans visit the dentist every six months for the usual check ups and routine dental cleaning, About 43 per cent only visit their dentist when there are problems, like cavities or gum infection, SingHealth found.
Infections can spread to your other organs and contribute to the development of major complications, including the following:
- Heart Disease – People with severe tooth decay are 2.7 times more likely to contract some form of heart disease, according to a study published in the Journal of Dental Research. This is because the bacteria from serious cavities may create low-level inflammation that could clog one’s arteries. This could then lead to heart attack, unstable angina and other similar conditions.
- Pregnancy Complications – Gum disease may be a risk factor for pregnancy complications, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research. The researchers found that the bacteria from gingivitis may directly affect the development of a child in the womb. They’re also suspected to lead to premature birth or low birth weights.
- Lung Infections – Your mouth isn’t just a pathway to your digestive system, it also provides a way towards your respiratory organs. Studies from the Journal of Dental Research and Clinical Infectious Diseases link poor oral health with lung infection.
A person could breathe in bacteria from the cavities or infected gums in their mouth into their lungs. This is called aspiration pneumonia, and it’s a risk that’s particularly high in elderly people. They’re likely to have poor oral health due to physical limitations and the use of potentially contaminated dentures.
Conditions Affecting Dental Health
There are also diseases that negatively impact your oral health. These include:
- HIV – People with HIV/AIDS have a higher risk of contracting oral infections because the disease severely reduces the capacity of one’s immune system. Common conditions associated with HIV include mouth ulcers, gingivitis and chronic dry mouth.
- Diabetes – People with diabetes are more likely to contract gum disease. Diabetes weakens your immune system, making your body more susceptible to getting infections, like gingivitis. Diabetics may find it difficult to recover from gum infections, too.
Simple dental problems, like tooth decay, thrush and plaque buildup can develop into more serious infections if neglected. And when the bacteria created by these infections make their way into your bloodstream, they can wreak havoc on the rest of your organs. So good oral health is particularly crucial to ensuring your overall health.
Regular tooth brushing coupled with flossing is a good start. You’ll also want to follow a balanced diet of nutrient-rich food products that promote healthy teeth and gums. Then, make sure to see your dentist as often as necessary. Don’t delay a visit because a check up could save you from costly future treatments.