Individuals tend to learn about dental hygiene at an early age. On the recommendation of their children’s pediatricians, parents may begin brushing their youngsters’ teeth the moment the first tooth breaks through the gums. While proper dental hygiene is vital to oral health, it also can have a profound effect on the rest of the body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, poor oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions. Periodontitis is a severe yet preventable gum infection that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. But the threat of periodontitis doesn’t end in the mouth. The American Academy of Periodontology notes there’s a connection between periodontitis and several other diseases. While bacteria was long suspected to be the link between periodontitis and other diseases in the body, the AAP notes that recent research points to inflammation as the culprit that connects periodontitis with diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
The AAP notes that people with diabetes are at increased risk for periodontal disease, speculating that diabetes patients’ risk is higher because people with diabetes are more vulnerable to infections than those without diabetes. While that suggests periodontal disease is a byproduct of diabetes, the AAP notes that research points to the relationship being a two-way street. Periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar, making dental hygiene an especially vital component of routine healthcare for people with diabetes.
The AAP notes that research indicates periodontal disease increases a person’s risk for heart disease, with the inflammation caused by the former leading to the latter. People with existing heart conditions also may find that periodontal disease exacerbates those conditions. The Mayo Clinic notes that the link between heart disease and periodontal disease is not fully understood, but enough studies have been conducted for scientists to support the notion that the two are connected.
Can periodontal disease be prevented?
Periodontal disease is preventable. A daily dental hygiene regimen that includes brushing after meals, flossing at least once per day and swishing with mouthwash are some simple, healthy habits that can prevent periodontal disease. In addition, the AAP recommends that people at increased risk for periodontal disease, including the elderly and smokers, should discuss their risk with their dental professionals.
Dental hygiene can do more for individuals than produce a mouthful of pearly white teeth. In fact, people who prioritize dental hygiene may lower their risks for various diseases.