Why Good Dental Hygiene Matters

Maintaining good dental hygiene is more important than you might think. Most Americans realize that brushing, flossing, and attending regular cleanings and oral health exams at a reputable dentist are all essential for keeping their teeth looking great, but few realize that dental hygiene can also impact other aspects of their health.

In recent years, researchers have been uncovering all kinds of links between dental hygiene and overall health. Most of them can be traced back to the bacteria that live in human mouths. While a little bit of bacterial growth can be a good thing since it aids in the digestive process, allowing too much harmful bacteria to make it past the mouth and into the rest of the body can create all kinds of problems.

If you need a little extra incentive to maintain optimum dental hygiene, you can read on to find out about ten reasons it’s so important to keep those teeth and gums clean.

1. Reduce Inflammation

The bacteria found naturally in people’s mouths can cause problems with inflammation. The inflammation usually starts in the gums as gingivitis, then progresses to periodontitis, but it can also travel throughout the body.

Chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases and adverse health conditions, including endocarditis. Endocarditis, the medical term for the inflammation of the inner lining of heart chambers and valves, is a life-threatening disease. Infective endocarditis is usually caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream through the mouth.

The best way to lower your risk of endocarditis and other inflammatory diseases is to combine improved dental hygiene with a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss regularly, and schedule professional cleanings at least twice per year.

2. Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

Endocarditis isn’t the only risk to your heart if you have poor oral health. Cardiovascular disease, clogged arteries, and an increased risk of strokes can also be linked to the infections and inflammation caused by oral bacteria. If you have a family history of heart disease, you may be at even greater risk.

Improving your at-home dental hygiene and scheduling regular appointments with your dentist are two of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease. If you have other underlying conditions such as HIV or diabetes, talk to your dentist about how they can impact your dental health and subsequent cardiovascular risk.

3. Make It Easier to Lose Weight

If you struggle with your appetite, brushing your teeth when you’re finished eating can improve more than just your dental hygiene. It might also help you lose weight. Brushing your teeth signals to your brain that it’s time to stop eating, so head straight for the bathroom after a healthy meal to curb your appetite and avoid overindulging in sugary, fattening desserts.

4. Improve Your Respiratory Health

Even if you don’t have gingivitis or periodontitis, the harmful bacteria in your mouth can still get pulled into your lungs. One good example can be seen in the bacteria responsible for pneumonia infections. Brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing regularly can help you keep harmful oral bacteria in check, reducing the chances that you’ll wind up dealing with pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

5. Support Healthier Pregnancies

Dentists recommend that pregnant women take extra care when it comes to their dental hygiene. If you’re eating for two, you’re also brushing and flossing for two. 

Women with poor oral health, and especially those with periodontal disease, are at a greater risk for delivering preterm babies with lower birth rates. Women who have recently learned that they are pregnant may want to schedule appointments with their dentists to evaluate their oral health and discuss additional precautions to take at home.

6. Catch Oral Cancer Early

Your dentist should perform an oral cancer screening at every visit as part of your regular checkup. He or she should inspect your gums, tongue, cheeks, and lips to look for unusual or suspicious changes. Precancerous lesions may not cause noticeable symptoms, and early diagnosis of oral cancer is one of the best indicators of a patient’s prognosis.

Currently, only about half of people diagnosed with oral cancer survive for more than five years. Your best bet for beating the odds is to attend regular dental checkups at least once every six months.

7. Reduce the Risk of Diabetes

Dentists and doctors have long known that people who have diabetes are prone to gum disease. However, researchers only recently discovered that gum disease may be a contributing factor, not a complication from the disease.

Periodontitis can cause blood sugar levels to spike in people both with and without diabetes. Compared to control groups with healthy gums, clinical research participants with severe gum disease have higher blood sugar levels and are at a greater risk of developing or failing to control type 2 diabetes.

8. Keep Periodontal Disease at Bay

According to the CDC, over 70% of seniors struggle with some form of gum disease. It occurs when plaque builds up and hardens on your teeth, especially along the gum line.

In the early stages of periodontal disease, your gums become red, swollen, and easily bloodied. As it progresses from gingivitis to periodontitis, your gums will pull away from your teeth to form pockets of infected tissue, which can lead to bone loss and, eventually, tooth loss. Removing plaque regularly by maintaining good home oral health habits and attending regular professional cleanings is the best way to reduce your risk of periodontal disease and keep your natural teeth.

9. Experience Less Tooth Decay

Plaque buildup doesn’t just raise your risk of gum disease. It also affects your teeth. As the bacterial film builds up on your tooth enamel, it can wear away at the protective outer coating, leading to tooth decay. Like gum disease, tooth decay can also leave you needing expensive reconstructive dental work, so it’s best to avoid it by maintaining good oral hygiene.

10. Improve Your Digestion

Having a healthy smile is about more than just looking beautiful. You need your teeth to chew food and aid in healthy digestion. Taking care of your natural teeth through good dental hygiene practices will make chewing easier and ensure that you can maintain optimal digestion.

The Bottom Line

You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of good dental hygiene. Schedule an appointment with your dentist for a routine cleaning and checkup, and make sure to ask how you can improve your home oral care routine to maintain your natural teeth, gums, and overall health.