Brushing teeth and flossing are part and parcel of oral hygiene. What happens if you fail to maintain it? If you still think that the only consequence which may come as a result of it is tooth decay, you are wrong: poor dental hygiene can cause gum problems, various heart issues, physical frailty and other conditions.
Image Credit: colourbox.dk
Dental issues can lead to frailty
A recent research revealed that the elderly are more likely to become frail if their oral hygiene is poor and they suffer from dental issues.
Frailty is a condition often diagnosed in old patients and characterized by vulnerability to serious and often life-threatening health issues resulting in hospitalization, functional decline, the need for long-term care, etc.
The study, in which 1,622 male patients aged 71-92 took part, showed that the risk of frailty appeared to be more significant if the patient suffered from oral health issues, including difficulty eating, dry mouth, tooth sensitivity, periodontal disease or loss of tooth. The participants reported their oral health, and the investigators assessed frailty. When defining frailty, the researchers counted such symptoms as low physical activity, losing weight unintentionally, difficulty walking (walking becomes slower), grip strength reduction, and exhaustion, and having three (or more) of these was considered to be frailty. The 3 years of follow-up helped demonstrate that being edentulous or having dental issues is a risk factor for becoming frail: the researchers adjusted the study results for history of taking drugs related to the above mentioned symptoms, age, social status, and history of diabetes, smoking, or being diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases, to make sure the results are as accurate as possible.
That being said, oral hygiene must be maintained regardless of age, because negligence can contribute to the risk of becoming frail when you are old.
Risk of heart problems also increases in case of poor oral hygiene
It may seem to be surprising, but dental plaques can trigger endocarditis, a rare condition characterized by inflammation of the heart valves and muscle lining. The condition is life-threatening, and it is bacterial infection that causes it.
In those at higher risk, poor oral hygiene can contribute to the condition development. Here is how it happens: when you do not brush your teeth, tooth plaques become home to myriads of bacteria. When they multiply, your gums become inflamed (you can recognize the disease by the gums’ appearance, as they become swollen and red and bleed when you touch them, for example, when brushing). The bleeding caused by gingivitis results in bacteria getting to the bloodstream and affecting other organs, including the heart.
The condition is rather rare, but it is not a reason to neglect oral hygiene because of that. Bacteria from your mouth are a risk factor which can be avoided if you stick to your hygiene routine – it’s not that difficult after all!
Oral hygiene regimen
To reduce the risks associated with poor oral hygiene, which include gum diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, lung conditions and other health problems, you can brush your teeth (without forgetting about flossing!), eat apples and other food which is good at removing plaque buildup, and using special liquids to prevent bacteria from multiplying.
Visiting your dentist twice a year is needed not only for the purpose of checking whether there are cavities or not, but also because your dentist can remove plaque buildup to keep your gums healthy. Having your teeth cleaned by a professional twice a year can even save you money, because it is plaques that cause a variety of dental problems!
Influence of Poor Oral Health on Physical Frailty: A Population-Based Cohort Study of Older British Men –Onlinelibrary.wiley.com
Heart Disease And Oral Health: Role Of Oral Bacteria In Heart Plaque – Health.harvard.edu
Dental Health and Endocarditis Prevention – WebMD.com