The Importance of Oral Hygiene & How It Affects Overall Health

A lot of people think that the only benefit of oral hygiene is a more aesthetically appealing smile.

However, keeping your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy actually has a huge impact on your overall physical and mental health.

Practicing good oral hygiene can therefore ensure good health.

Dental Care and Mouth Health: Why is it Important to Have Good Hygiene?

Obviously, one of the biggest benefits of maintaining proper oral hygiene is a healthy mouth.

Though it might seem obvious, the importance of regularly brushing your teeth, flossing, and visiting a dentist cannot be overemphasized if you want to keep your mouth healthy.

Some people make the mistake of thinking that they do not have to bother with oral hygiene if sparkling white teeth are not their priority, but there are plenty of oral issues that can be extremely painful, unpleasant, and even dangerous.

The main reason that oral hygiene is necessary is because the mouth is naturally full of harmful bacteria.

When you eat, microscopic bits of food remain in the mouth, and these bits of food can encourage bacteria growth. These bacteria can join together to form dental plaque which is a sticky film coating the teeth.

If this plaque is not removed through regular tooth brushing, it hardens into plaque that is almost impossible to remove.

The bacteria that flourish in plaque create waste products that damage the teeth, gums, and bones.

As bacteria cause damage, healthy oral tissue decays and becomes infected.

Bad dental hygiene can lead to: 

These conditions cause pain and lead to tooth, gum, and jawbone loss, so it is important to avoid them if at all possible.

The Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health

Doctor, medical, virtual.
The link between the 2 is quite significant

Medical research is starting to show that oral health and general bodily health are closely related to each other.

If your mouth is in good condition, then the rest of your body is probably doing well.

However, if you are suffering from various dental issues, then you may soon start dealing with other health problems.

This seems to happen because the mouth is naturally a place where bacteria flourishes.

The bacteria in the mouth do not just harm the teeth and gums, they can also enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, increasing inflammation and causing other health problems.

Therefore, people with gum disease are 40 percent more likely to suffer from another chronic health condition.

More and more dentists are starting to realize that if they have a patient with an oral condition, the patient may also need to be referred to a doctor for a checkup.

The Relationship Between Oral Hygiene and Diabetes

Preparing an insulin shot for diabetes

The oral condition most strongly linked to another health issue is periodontitis which is a gum infection that harms the jawbone.

Not only are people with diabetes three times as likely to develop periodontitis, but people also have a greater risk of being diagnosed with diabetes if they have it already.

Though doctors are not quite certain of the underlying mechanisms, it seems that the bacteria that are present during periodontitis makes it harder for the body to control blood sugar levels.

The inflammation and the bacteria make it harder for insulin to turn sugar into energy, causing high blood sugar levels.

Over time, high blood sugar levels can make the body become resistant to insulin, and diabetes sets in.

Diabetics also tend to be more susceptible to infections, so periodontitis worsens once diabetes happens.

Therefore, if you have periodontitis, it may be beneficial to be tested for diabetes.

If you already have both conditions, you may benefit from treating the periodontitis as soon as possible because studies have found that people with diabetes have better glycaemic control after dealing with their periodontitis.

The Connection Between Heart Disease and Mouth Bacteria

Bacteria cultured in a laboratory

Conclusive study has found that gum disease is a risk factor for coronary artery disease, and having gingivitis or periodontitis is also linked to many other forms of cardiovascular disease.

The reason that these two conditions are so intertwined is because gum disease causes bacteria to flourish wildly.

Since the gums are full of blood vessels, the bacteria from gum disease easily travels throughout the body.

Whenever harmful bacteria goes to a part of the body, it can cause inflammation and swelling in blood vessels.

Over time, high levels of inflammation can harden arteries, thicken arterial walls, and increase blood clots.

This raises blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular diseases can potentially be life threatening, because interrupted blood flow can lead to heart attacks or pulmonary embolisms.

Fortunately, it seems that some of the negative effects of gum disease on the heart can be reversed.

A study of over 300,000 subjects with cardiovascular disease found that the subjects were less likely to be hospitalized following gum disease treatment.

Other Conditions Linked to Poor Oral Health

As a rule of thumb; if you have a healthy mouth, then you are most likely healthy, (this is not medical advice and only a very basic notion. You should always make sure to have regular check ups to make sure your whole body is functioning properly).

However, if your mouth is facing dental issues, you may have some sort of problematic health condition as well.

Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and strokes are the health conditions most commonly related to gum disease and cavities.

Though there may not be as much extensive medical research about other conditions, the following issues have also been shown to be connected to oral health:

  • Osteoporosis - Calcium is needed to build both strong teeth and strong bones. If you are calcium deficient, your body may leach calcium from the teeth to fortify your bones. Therefore, cavities may be a sign that you have osteoporosis. The brittle, weakened bones of a person with osteoporosis may also make periodontitis more likely.
  • Fetal Development - Pregnant women with mouth conditions may risk harming the development of their children. The infection and inflammation linked to gum disease may trigger premature births.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis - Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of arthritis that is caused by inflammation in the joints, so it is no surprise that the inflammation caused by poor oral health affects this condition. Studies have found that treating gum disease lessens the pain and joint damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Strokes - Study subjects with severe periodontitis were four times as likely to suffer from ischemic strokes. This seems to occur because the inflammation of periodontitis can trigger blood clots that obstruct blood flow to the brain. The streptococcus sanguis bacteria found in people with gum disease can also weaken blood vessel walls, increasing the chance of a hemorrhagic stroke which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

How to Maintain Oral Hygiene

Now that you know why it is so important to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy, I want to share some tips about the best ways to practice good oral hygiene.

The first step towards good hygiene is brushing your teeth, which should be done at least twice a day according to the American Dental Association, and the goal of brushing your teeth is to remove any bacteria before it hardens into tartar.

Each tooth brushing session should last two minutes long, and you should brush all sides of your teeth, your gums, and your mouth.

The best toothpaste to use during this is a fluoride based toothpaste, which will help to remineralize teeth and prevent cavities.

The type of toothbrush you should use will depend on your individual dental needs.

Though proper toothbrushing technique is the most important part of oral hygiene, there are a few other tools which are also essential.

Flossing is often neglected, but it is the best way to prevent gum disease.

Since the toothbrush cannot clean the tiny spaces between teeth, flossing is needed to remove any bacteria that is built up there. You should floss at least once a day, and if regular dental floss is too difficult for you, a water flosser might make it a little simpler.

Another helpful oral hygiene tool is antibacterial mouthwash, which can also help to kill any bacteria lurking in hard to reach spots.

All of these steps might seem time consuming to you, but in the long run, it might save you lengthy hours spent at your dentist’s or doctor’s office. Y

ou do not just avoid cavities or gum disease by keeping your mouth healthy, so it will also help to lower your risks of developing other dangerous health conditions.


The link between the cleanliness and good function of your mouth and your overall health, is more than just skin deep and cosmetic.

There are very real and very serious health issues that can arise due to poor maintenance of your mouth. Just like your eyes, your mouth says a lot about the sate of you body and if you are noticing certain recurring problems with your teeth, gums or other dental related issues, we would highly recommend visiting your doctor to get a deeper, fuller check of the rest of your body.

It is always better to be safe than sorry…

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