What other conditions are related to having poor oral hygiene?
Poor oral hygiene is not just associated with problems in your mouth. There are a number of other conditions which have been linked to gum disease. It is thought that germs (bacteria) entering the bloodstream from the mouth can travel elsewhere in the body, making infections more likely. Also, the inflammation response that happens when you have gingivitis or periodontitis can also trigger inflammation elsewhere. This can be associated with the development of some of the diseases below.
Oral hygiene, gum disease and heart disease
In addition to the benefits to your teeth, good mouth hygiene may have even further benefits. There is some evidence to suggest that poor oral hygiene is associated with an increased risk of developing heart diseases such as:
One research trial followed over 11,000 Scottish people. The trial found that those who reported poor oral hygiene (never or rarely brushed their teeth) had an increased risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. It is not clear if this is a direct cause and effect or simply an association or chance finding. That is, it is not proved that poor oral hygiene can actually increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. However, there is a theory that mild inflammation and infection in the mouth from gum disease can enter the bloodstream to trigger mild inflammation in the blood vessels. This, over time, can lead to cardiovascular diseases.
Other diseases which may be linked to poor oral hygiene
Links have also been drawn between poor oral hygiene and:
- Diabetes - poor oral hygiene may be a trigger for diabetes to develop and may also make it more likely that complications of diabetes will occur.
- 'Thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis).
- Cancer, especially pancreatic and oropharyngeal.
- Pregnancy problems such as preterm birth and low birth weight.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
Further research is needed to clarify these possible links. But, in the meantime, it may be an additional reason to look after your teeth and gums.
Further reading and references
Oral health promotion: general dental practice; NICE Guidance (December 2015)
Halitosis; NICE CKS, November 2014 (UK access only)
Dental Information for the Public; British Dental Association
Yaacob M, Worthington HV, Deacon SA, et al; Powered versus manual toothbrushing for oral health. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jun 17(6):CD002281. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002281.pub3.
de Oliveira C, Watt R, Hamer M; Toothbrushing, inflammation, and risk of cardiovascular disease: results from BMJ. 2010 May 27340:c2451. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c2451.
Slot DE, Dorfer CE, Van der Weijden GA; The efficacy of interdental brushes on plaque and parameters of periodontal inflammation: a systematic review. Int J Dent Hyg. 2008 Nov6(4):253-64.
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