Understanding the Negative Effects of Poor Oral Hygiene

In August of 2013, the online journal for Cancer Prevention Research published a study examining the connection between oral hygiene and the oral HPV Infection. HPV, or human papillomavirus, can cause a number of oropharyngeal cancers. The results of the study showed that the HPV virus was more likely to be present in adults who rated their oral health from poor to fair.


What does this mean for people with poor oral health? It means if you have poor oral health, then your gums have a greater chance to become infected with HPV. How this affects your odds of getting mouth and throat cancer is not clear from current research, however. The subjects of the test were only at risk of mouth and throat cancer.


While HPV can lead to oropharyngeal cancer if left untreated, there are treatments available for the virus. The important information to take away from this study is not that poor oral hygiene may increase your risk of cancer, but that you can prevent the risks and diseases caused by poor oral hygiene.


What Are Other Dangers of Poor Oral Hygiene?
Aside from bad breath and loss of teeth, poor oral hygiene results in a number of dangerous side effects. While you may be familiar with many of the more common effects, some may surprise you.


Gingivitis
This is one of the most common forms of gum disease. Gingivitis is a mild periodontal disease that results in swelling, irritation, and sore gums. Signs you have this gum disease include:


  • Receding and tender gums
  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing
  • Bad breath
  • Dark red gums


You can help prevent gingivitis by brushing and flossing daily and visiting your dentist annually. Adding anti-bacterial mouthwash to your oral care routine also decreases potential risk factors.


Dementia
The general decline in a person's ability to think, reason, or perform day-to-day activities is referred to as dementia. Alzheimer's disease is a common form of dementia. A recent study from the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry links a common bacteria in gum disease to dementia.


In the study, scientists examined 20 brain samples – 10 from patients with dementia, and 10 from patients without. Researchers found the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis in four of the samples from patients with dementia; all other samples were clear.


Because the causes of dementia are still not fully understood, doctors are hesitant to come out and say that gum disease leads directly to a decrease in brain function. They note that continued research will increase understanding of the link between poor oral hygiene and the onset of dementia.


Scientists did note that poor oral hygiene increased symptoms in patients showing early signs of dementia.


Respiratory Problems
Foreign bacteria living in and around the tissue in your mouth cause gum disease. What happens to the other parts of the body when this bacteria spreads? A study published in the Journal of Periodontology suggests that people who constantly inhale the bacteria from gum disease and diseased teeth have an increased likelihood to develop respiratory infections.


The study tested people with respiratory diseases and people without. The results indicate that those with respiratory diseases were far more likely to have poor oral hygiene.


What Qualifies as Good Oral Hygiene?
As previously mentioned, poor oral hygiene – and the diseases and dangers that come with it – is preventable. By taking small steps performed daily, you can avoid the negative effects of poor hygiene.


Choosing a toothbrush. When choosing a toothbrush, consider the size, effectiveness, and endorsements on the package. A toothbrush should be large enough to scrub your teeth effectively, but small enough to manoeuvre effectively in your mouth.


Flossing. Dental floss comes in waxed and unwaxed, wide and narrow, and has a number of different flavours. Choose floss based on your personal preference. Experiment with a few different types of floss to see which is the most comfortable in your mouth while leaving your teeth their cleanest.


Once you have chosen your floss, make sure to use it at least once a day. Flossing removes bacteria and food particles that brushing alone cannot.


Using mouthwash. Mouthwash fights bacteria that brushing and flossing miss. Anti-bacterial mouthwashes used once a day can reduce potentially damaging material you may miss during brushing. To prevent infection, freshen your breath, and fight cavities, choose a mouthwash that your dentist recommends.


Visiting the dentist. Meeting with your dental care specialist provides the greatest protection against poor oral hygiene. During your scheduled visit, your dentist evaluates the health of your teeth and gives you advice on how to best care for them.


Meeting with your dentist can catch issues with your oral hygiene before they become major problems. The studies cited here need further study to verify their findings, but their main takeaway remains applicable: poor oral hygiene can cause other health problems. During your appointment, your dental professional will address any concerns about the state of your mouth and instruct you on ways to improve your oral health.



For more information on dental hygiene, visit our Edmonton dentist at Westmount Dental Centre.

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