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Healthy mouth, healthy body: Why oral hygiene is a must

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By Shillpi A Singh,

Taking care of oral hygiene to prevent oral health problems can go a long way towards decreasing the risk for more serious health problems

Do you know the reason why we were taught to brush our teeth every morning, every night? Well, because good oral hygiene is the key to overall health and well-being because poor oral care can lead to health problems. Brushing teeth twice is just being wise to keep bacteria and cavities at bay, and stay healthy. And mind you, oral health is so much more than just the health of the mouth, teeth, and gums.

Oral and dental health is one of the most neglected and overlooked aspects of general well-being because poor oral hygiene primarily affects morbidity rather than mortality. But it’s taken as a form of ‘silent epidemic’ which needs to be attended to on a priority basis. “The relationship between oral and general health has been increasingly recognized during the past two decades.

Oral infections are potential contributing factors to a variety of clinically important systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, bacterial pneumonia, neurological stroke, diabetes mellitus, low birth weights and oral cancers,” says Dr Sona Bhatia, Consultant Dental Surgeon, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Mumbai.

The foci of infection are usually in the periodontal tissue or infected tooth which spreads through the bloodstream. These microbial toxins cause tissue trauma depending on the host’s susceptibility.

Heart of the matter

Poor oral health puts a person at risk for heart disease. If the gums are inflamed due to bacteria that cause periodontal disease, same bacteria can actually get into the bloodstream causing the arteries to build up plaque and harden. “This hardening of the arteries is called atherosclerosis, and it is severe. It leads to blood flow problems and heart blockages, and it increases the likelihood of having a heart attack. The damaging impact on the arteries and blood vessels can lead to hypertension and increase the risk for strokes. Endocarditis can also develop, which is an often fatal condition that occurs when the lining of the heart becomes infected,” says Dr Madan.

Even the respiratory system can suffer as a result of poor oral health. Poor oral hygiene inflamed infected gums increases the plaque load resulting in increased colonization of pathogenic bacteria. Some studies suggest that an important association exist between poor periodontal status and aspiration pneumonia. “Pneumonia is the infection of the lung tissues.

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