We’re all aware of the importance of brushing our teeth. It is a recommended daily ritual and a necessity to maintain a bright smile. More than that, to support our oral health, we need to visit the dentist regularly. However, a surprising number of us don’t brush our teeth often or well enough, let alone have regular examinations. While we might think the worst-case scenario will be an unwanted filling or two, the risks of ignoring our dental health are far greater.
Why People Ignore Their Dental Health
Even though we know we should maintain good oral hygiene, there are a vast number of reasons why we can let it slip:
- Lack of pain – pain is the leading reason that people seek help from their dentists. However, once there is pain, the problem is a lot more advanced.
- Cost – there is no denying that dental procedures are costly. However, the cost of ignoring our dental health can be far more than purely financial.
- Anxiety – children and adults alike have a fear of the dentist. However, going for regular check-ups rather than an emergency procedure is a lot less daunting.
- Visibility – before dental problems become serious, they may not be visible to those around us. However, letting problems progress could result in decay and bad breath that has a much bigger social impact.
- Availability – we all lead busy lives, and it’s easy to feel we don’t have time to make regular appointments. However, if we end up with a serious problem, we’ll lose much more time in the long run.
- Embarrassment – once we have let our dental health slip, decayed, stained and chipped teeth can be an embarrassment. However, dentists are there to help not judge, and they can prevent the problem from getting worse.
While ignoring our dental health may seem easier than a dreaded trip to the dentist, this is never the case. Visiting the dentist may not be much fun, but it is far better than the alternative.
Oral Problems Caused by Poor Dental Health
The first area at risk if we ignore our dental health, is our mouth. Cavities and tooth decay are so common that we often don’t take them seriously enough. However, they can have serious and lasting complications. This will start with fillings but will then lead to procedures like root canals to try to save our teeth. However, these issues are just the tip of the iceberg. There are far more severe oral problems created by poor dental health:
- Gum disease – this starts with the milder gingivitis, causing red and swollen gums in response to the plaque build up between our teeth. If it spreads, becoming periodontal disease, our immune system then begins to destroy tissues and bones in our mouths, creating pockets that can become infected.
- Tooth loss – if decay causes cavities to become deep enough to reach the pulp in our teeth, then a filling won’t suffice. Teeth can be saved by root canals if caught early enough, but sometimes the only solution is extraction. Missing teeth can impact on the health of our remaining teeth, gums and jawbone as well as having a substantial social impact.
- Bad breath – food particles that are left to linger in our mouths can start to smell. The more bacteria that we allow to build up in our mouths and on our tongues, the more likely we are to have bad breath.
How Dental Health Impacts General Health
The risks of ignoring our dental health are far greater than solely the threats to our mouths. The truth is that our oral health is strongly linked to our general health and wellbeing. It is now widely accepted that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with severe gum disease can play a role in certain diseases.
Periodontal disease results in a huge amount of unhealthy bacteria being lodged in our mouths; these bacteria can quickly spread to major organs and spur on new infections. Meanwhile, the inflammatory response caused by gum disease can release chemicals into our bloodstream that can have serious problems elsewhere in our bodies. Some of the most widely documented health risks associated with inadequate dental health include:
- Cardiovascular disease – infections from bacteria in the mouth can lead to clogged arteries or strokes. The effects can be life-altering, if not deadly.
- Arthritis – this inflammatory disease can be worsened by the gingivitis bacteria associated with gum disease.
- Pregnancy issues – any infection when pregnant can be a risk to an unborn child. Both periodontal disease and gingivitis can lead to premature births.
- Diabetes – gum disease can worsen the symptoms of diabetes and make it difficult to control as it impacts heavily on blood sugar levels.
- Endocarditis – as bacteria move through the bloodstream, they can reach the heart. This infection starts within the inner lining and can be deadly if not treated.
- Cancer – exercising poor oral hygiene by smoking can lead to oral and throat cancers as well as kidney, pancreatic and blood cancers.
How to Improve Your Oral Health
Prevention is always better than cure, especially when the stakes are so high. You can improve your oral health by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and taking regular trips to the dentist. If you have a dental problem, then it is always better to seek treatment sooner rather than later. Even if you have missing or damaged teeth, all is not lost. Many people choose All on 4 dental implants to win back their beautiful smiles, and protect their future health.
After all, by exercising good dental health, you’re doing much more than saving your teeth; you might just save your life.