Recently, several high profile studies have connected oral health problems like gum disease and gingivitis to overall health. These findings illustrate the importance of practicing proper dental hygiene in order to avoid serious complications.
Many of the oral bacteria that cause diseases like tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath have also been shown to cause inflammation that can lead to heart disease and some types of cancer. Allowing these bacteria to multiply in the mouth may have serious consequences for the rest of the body.
In fact, a recent study from researchers at the University of Bristol found that some of the more harmful oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and infect other areas. This can have harmful effects throughout the body.
The study showed that streptococcus, the bacteria that is responsible for gum disease and gingivitis, can open up sores in the mouth. This provides it with access to the blood, where it releases a protein that causes blood cells to clump together. These can cause dangerous blockages of blood flow to the heart and brain.
"People need to be aware that as well keeping a check on their diet, blood pressure, cholesterol and fitness levels, they also need to maintain good dental hygiene to minimize their risk of heart problems," said Howard Jenkins, who led the investigation.
As evidence of this nature continues to grow, public health groups are working to spread the word about the importance of maintaining proper oral health and avoiding problems like gingivitis and gum disease.
The Pennsylvania Dental Association recently launched a program aimed at raising public awareness of some of the symptoms to watch out for. Officials from the group say that chronic bad breath and red, swollen gums that bleed easily or are pulling away from the teeth are signals of a more serious problem.
"Your mouth is the entry point of many bacteria," said Steven Grater, Pennsylvania Dental Association member and general dentist from Harrisburg. "To keep this bacteria from going into your body, cleaning your mouth is necessary. A clean mouth will lead to a clean body."
Strong antibacterial oral health products may help prevent the spread of microbes from the mouth to other areas of the body, and are recommended by many dental experts.