Every day, a person is at risk due to a lack of good oral hygiene, diet, pH, and mouth breathing.
Almost half, 47.2%, of all adults aged 30 years and older have some form of gum disease. Gum disease increases with age. 70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease.
While you won’t die from the pain caused by an abscessed tooth or infected gums, poor oral health can lead to many deadly diseases.
Are you not convinced? Just think of your mouth as the gateway to your body. If you have cavities, decaying teeth, or infected gums, bacteria will eventually form inside your mouth. The longer this bacteria sits untreated, the greater the chance it’s going to enter your bloodstream. From there, it can wreak havoc on any of your organs. While we don’t want to be bearers of doom and gloom, we do want to show you that whole-body health is directly related to oral health.
As proven by years of scientific study, infections in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body—including vital organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain. Infections in the mouth also have been known to travel to newly placed valves, organ transplants, and joints.
Bacteria in your mouth, not disrupted and left uncontrolled, can lead to pneumonia, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and a host of other ailments that can result in early and unnecessary death. There are tragic stories that were avoidable by simple, consistent, and effective oral care practices.
Poor oral health allows bacteria to build up in your mouth and potentially cause infections. An infection in the tooth is called an abscess, and if left untreated, it can have serious consequences.
A healthy cardiovascular system depends on good oral health. The research over the years doesn’t lie. If you have dental disease, you have an increased risk of having a heart attack. In 2018, a study found that patients with bleeding gums (caused by poor brushing and flossing practices) had an increased risk of heart disease. One of the most “popular” places bacteria like to stick to is your platelets. Once this happens, blood clots can form and interrupt your blood’s flow to your heart. You can guess what happens next: A heart attack.
Of course, a heart attack doesn’t always occur. But what starts out as a simple gum infection can turn into a serious heart condition if left untreated.
It’s really no wonder that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 adults has untreated cavities. Even more concerning: Almost 50% of all adults aged 30 or older (65 million people) have signs of gum disease. The CDC has been working to improve the oral health of Americans and what they refer to as “a silent epidemic of cavities” and gum disease that may be connected to damage in other areas of the body.
Controlling (and preventing) diabetes depends on good dental hygiene. If you’re a diabetic, then you know that the disease makes you more susceptible to infected gums. But did you know that ignoring an infection can cause drastic spikes in blood sugar levels, making your diabetes even more difficult to control? Even if you don’t have diabetes… If you have bad oral health, you’re at an increased risk of developing it.
Over the last few years, you may have seen headlines in the news like these: Men with a history of gum disease have a 64% increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
Poor oral health is linked to a 75% increase in liver cancer risk. Poor oral hygiene tied to cancer-linked virus HPV.
For years, we’ve heard about how smoking or using tobacco products can lead to cancer. But now we’re hearing about other types of cancer being blamed on untreated cavities and gum disease.
If you don’t think your brain is affected by oral health… think again! Sure, you’ve heard that not brushing and flossing your teeth can lead to cavities and tooth decay. But did you know that poor dental hygiene can even lead to Alzheimer’s disease? An infection in your gums can kill off brain cells, leading to memory loss and dementia. In fact, a study showed a link between bacteria that cause gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. And in a similar 2010 study, participants with gum inflammation were nine times more likely to score lower on cognitive tests. If you are a mouth breather, you get 18% less oxygen to your brain because you don’t get the nitric oxide co2 exchange that happens when you breathe through your nose.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Centuries ago, Hippocrates (known as the father of modern western medicine) recommended pulling teeth in order to cure arthritis. We are still investigating this connection today! According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, people with gum disease are four times more likely to have RA. A 2012 study showed that 65% of RA patients had gum disease compared to 28% of patients without RA. The common link between both diseases is inflammation. The oral bacteria caused by gingivitis can increase inflammation throughout the body.
Can poor oral health kill you? The answer: “Yes,” and “It’s complicated.” In her landmark book Dying of Dirty Teeth – Why the lack of proper oral care is killing nursing home residents and how to prevent it, Angie Stone, Author and dental hygienist, explains her research into why the elderly have an increased risk of death from a lack of proper oral hygiene. Sounds inconceivable? Stone examines the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and COPD that nursing home residents face when they receive little to no oral hygiene or oral health care.
She writes: “There are several causes of death that can be associated with poor oral health including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, COPD and dementia. . . .While death certificates do not list oropharyngeal bacteria as the cause of death, they are certainly the origin of many illnesses that lead to death.”
Current research linking inflammation with Alzheimer’s Disease is looking at the association of neurotoxins released from destructive oral bacteria that have passed through the blood-brain barrier and are found in the plaques of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Find out what you need to know and what you need to do to ensure this doesn’t happen to the ones you love, care for
The thing is that we’ve got to control the biofilm and the bacteria in the mouth. You and I are really pretty good at that with mechanical disruption of those things, as we know. As we age, and no different than little kids, they’re not; older people are traditionally not good at that. As you mentioned, they may have arthritis, they have Alzheimer’s, they have dementia; how do we expect that they can take care of their own teeth? They just can’t.
We’ve got to do better. All of this disease in the mouth lends itself to other diseases, mostly aspiration pneumonia. It’s like people like, oh well, pneumonia is an old person’s friend. That’s great, but do we really want to die from dirty teeth? That just seems ridiculous to me in the year 2015 that people are dying from dirty teeth.
I just think that we’ve got to do better. We at least have to keep the pH up and do something to help.
Angie’s grandmother lost 60 percent of her teeth in a nursing home in two years. She was 90 when she went in, and she had almost a full complement of teeth, but in two short years, under the care of the care team and the dentist that was coming in to do exams, she lost 60 percent of her teeth. I’d been working in this area for a while, but when she saw that happen, She was like you’ve got to be kidding me. At 92, we’re dealing with this? There’s got to be a better way. That’s basically what my book talks about what’s happening, why it’s happening, and then my personal solution that I’ve created to help.
Not only could you lose your natural pearly white, but it could also land you in a serious medical emergency, eventually affecting other areas of your body. So, if you’re wondering whether a tooth infection can actually kill you, the answer is yes.
It’s a problem that has been going on for quite a while. Considering the growth of our aging population, it will probably become a much larger issue. Most family members aren’t even aware that Grandpa or Grandma might not be receiving the dental care that they are supposed to be getting.
As more and more researchers take a hard look at studies from the past thirty years, the evidence shows that a lack of dental care increases a person’s risk for many diseases. It’s exactly what Stone has done in her book, summarizing studies that indicate periodontal disease initiates many diseases, from diabetes to dementia. As a dental professional for 30 years, Stone’s research has also been published in the journal Integrative Medicine.
Changing the Way we Look at Gum Disease.
Recently published research indicates that people who suffer from gum disease have a 60 percent greater chance of developing the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than someone who has no gum disease. Other studies show a connection between oral bacteria due to poor dental hygiene and brain tissue deterioration, and dementia. Not only can gum disease increase your risk of diabetes, but periodontal disease can make it very difficult to control.
A look at the importance of proper flossing and the methods you can use to clean between your teeth
Cleaning your teeth should be a journey of exploration. Far too many people rush through the process and never get their teeth as clean as they need to be. To free your mouth of plaque buildup and bacteria, you need to take the time to give your teeth a thorough cleanse at least once per day. You need to focus on each tooth’s surface and venture into the hardest-to-reach nooks and crannies. Bacteria love to hide in these tight spaces between the teeth, and it’s where they often do the most damage — cavities and infections usually develop in the darkest, most hidden spaces in your mouth. Fortunately, we have lots of tools available to help reach the space between our teeth and keep them clean and healthy. The key is using them regularly and properly.
Dental floss is the least expensive and most accessible method to clean our teeth. We can easily carry a pack of floss with us wherever we go, and it’s an item that most people have in their bathroom medicine cabinets.
Dental floss is made from nylon thread and can be round or flat in shape. Some dental floss is flavored, while others are plain. However, the type of dental floss you select isn’t nearly as important as how you use it.
Wrap the floss around each tooth at a 180-degree angle and gently move the thread up and down. This will scrape any buildup off the tooth’s surface and remove any debris stuck under the gums. This method is much more time-consuming, but it is also much more effective.
Flossing brushes are another inexpensive and portable way to keep your teeth clean. Also known as interdental brushes, these devices have a long, thin brush at one end with tiny bristles on it. It can easily squeeze into tight spaces in your mouth and effectively brush away excess bacteria.
Many people use a water flosser although more expensive than other options, a water irrigation system is a highly effective way to clean between your teeth. It uses a steady and forceful stream of water that gently washes away anything stuck in the crevices of your mouth.
Using water to clean between your teeth can also flush out any particles stuck below your gumline. Using a principle of physics, the water speeds up as it passes through the narrow openings between your teeth. As this occurs, it creates a suction or vacuum that sucks out any debris and washes it away. It is 99% effective at removing debris between your teeth.
A Waterpik is perhaps the best-known water flossing system. You can keep this device in your bathroom and use it once a day for the best results. Another option is Burst, which makes cleaning your teeth in the shower easy. I am a BUrst ambassador, and I love their products.
Did you know that if you are only brushing your teeth and not flossing regularly that you are leaving at least one-third of your tooth surfaces dirty? Cleaning between your teeth is an absolute must when it comes to oral hygiene. Taking care of your teeth not only means having a healthy smile, but it also means keeping both your mouth and your entire body from harmful bacteria. If you want to have the cleanest mouth possible, you need to dive into the nooks and crannies. You need to take your time and get all the surfaces!
An untreated infection can spread throughout your body
Here’s an example of how what goes on inside your mouth affects the rest of your body: A simple tooth infection or abscess can lead to serious systemic complications.
A tooth infection occurs when bacteria or pus collects inside the tooth or gum.
Signs and symptoms of tooth infection:
- Severe, throbbing pain in the jawbone, neck, or ear
- Swelling of the face, cheeks, or neck
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Itching or burning on the skin
- Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
- Sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting
The kicker: Many times, these abscesses cause no pain, swelling, or any other obvious symptoms, which is why it is easy to ignore.
Your mouth is full of bacteria that can enter the dental pulp or the center of the tooth, which is packed with cells, blood vessels, and tissue. The bacteria enter through a cavity, chip, or crack in the tooth, then spread to the root. This leads to swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root and can cause a tooth abscess or infection.
Your chances of experiencing an infected tooth increase if you don’t properly regularly clean your teeth and mouth. Consuming too much sugar, including drinking soda, can lead to more cavities, creating an easier path for bacteria to enter the tooth. A dry mouth can also increase your chances of developing tooth decay. Some medications or even just aging can come with a side effect of dry mouth. Taking care of your teeth every day can prevent decay.
What to do if you think you have a tooth infection?
Tooth infections don’t go away on their own. You need to seek dental treatment right away.
In some situations, a tooth infection can spread to other parts of the body, which can cause serious and life-threatening complications, including sepsis. A dentist can treat a tooth infection and determine whether the infection is spreading so you can get the necessary medical treatment right away.
Don’t put yourself through that trauma. Properly cleaning your teeth every day is the best way to prevent tooth infection and preserve your oral and overall health.
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