Here we’ve put together five of the more common ways poor dental hygiene can negatively affect your health. We strongly advise that if you are suffering from any of the problems below, or you are experiencing gum inflammation or tooth pain, that you seek medical attention immediately.
1. Poor oral hygiene can make you depressed
Researchers at Deakin University recently linked poor dental health to depression. Their research, based on a survey of more than 10,000 Americans, found not only a connection between dental health and depression but also that the worse your dental health became the more your depressive state was intensified. “Not only did we find a connection between dental health and depression, we also demonstrated that a dose-response exists between the two conditions, meaning that the more dental conditions one had the greater the severity of their depression,” said Deakin’s Adrienne O’Neil, M.D.
This relationship remained even when tested against other factors such as high body mass index (BMI) or an elevated level of CRP, a protein found in blood plasma, that when elevated is used as a general marker of inflammation in the body.
The relationship between poor dental health and depression is a complicated one. Typically, depression is seen as a precursor to poor dental health. Those suffering from mental illness are often at an increased risk of substance abuse or face limited economic resources making dental health care problematic. Stress related disorders, such as teeth grinding or dry mouth, also result in damage to your jaw and enamel.
“The relationship between dental health and depression is not well understood, with previous studies investigating poor dental health as a by-product of depression, rather than a precursor,” Dr O’Neil said.
“Although the results of this study provide only a snapshot of this association, they add to emerging theories around the importance of oral health and bacteria in mental health … if poor dental health is a risk factor for depression, this may have implications for depression management, as well as depression prevention from a public health perspective.”
From a self-esteem perspective though, poor dental hygiene could cause you to shy away from social situations; inhibit you in the pursuit of your career; and cause pain and sleeplessness that can negatively affect your mood.
The US department of Health and Human Services notes that both: “a tendency to avoid social contact as a result of concerns over facial appearance… [and]… persistent pain has similar isolating and depressing effects.”
2. Poor dental health could cause your heart to suffer
Researchers aren’t sure why but people with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease. Some hypothesise that the inflammation could increase your risk of blood clots that can trigger heart attacks.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine warned that excessive sugar – not just fat and salt – could cause heart disease. The article stated that a link between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease (CVD) had been demonstrated to have a “convincing evidence base”.
Gum disease, often prompted by excessive sugar consumption, can cause an inflammatory response leading to CVD through a process called atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries, the paper says.
3. Poor oral health could affect your diet
The National Survey of Adult Heath (2004-6) found that 17.4 per cent of the population avoided foods because of dental problems. Besides causing potential damage to your social life, this could cause sufferers to avoid healthy grains and proteins necessary for good nutrition. The kind of pain that sufferers report is varied with everything from minor tooth decay to sinus infections being capable of resulting in pain either during or after eating. While it’s not uncommon for people to report some pain after excessive sugar consumption or to experience sensitivity to hot or cold foods, prolonged or sharp pain when chewing is not normal. If you’re experiencing this kind of pain you could be suffering from tooth decay, a loose filling and physical damage to your tooth (like a fracture), nerve damage, or the inflammation/infection of pulp tissue inside the tooth.
4. Poor oral health can worsen your diabetes
Studies have found very strong connections between diabetes and your oral health. But there’s some evidence to suggest gum disease could prevent you from regulating your blood sugar levels, exacerbating your existing condition. More prevalent is research showing a heightened risk of oral health problems for diabetes sufferers. The higher your blood sugar level, the greater the supply of sugars and starches – every tooth’s worst enemy. This heightened supply can initially result in cavities, but diabetes sufferers also more prone to infection – resulting in a higher rate of gingivitis and advanced gum disease (periodontitis).
5. Pregnant women could be at risk of poor oral hygiene
A study from the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine found links between periodontitis (a serious gum infection) and both premature pregnancy and low birth weight. Due to hormonal changes, pregnancy itself can result in an increased risk of gingivitis with over 70% of pregnant women having some instance of the condition during the gestational period. If left untreated gingivitis can become periodontitis (a serious gum infection), which increases the risks of premature birth, low birth weight, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Regular morning sickness and frequent snacking during pregnancy could place you at higher risk. It’s advised that you closely watch your oral health during pregnancy taking special care to avoid high-sugar foods and drinks. If morning sickness is a problem, it’s advised that you don’t brush your teeth immediately after bouts of illness as this can wear away at the enamel. Alternatively, rinse your mouth out with water and wait 30 minutes before grabbing the toothpaste and toothbrush.