It's easy to simplify oral hygiene to just being about your teeth and gums, and not really a significant part of your overall health picture. The fact is, there are a lot of important connections between your oral health and the rest of your body.
Don't think that proper dentistry is for children only. You need to keep up with your own oral hygiene as an adult too, not only for your teeth either.
The main aspect of dental health that can impact your overall health is bacterial infection.
Your mouth is the first line of defense when it comes to keeping the germs of the outside world out of your body, and if there are cracks in those defenses, it makes a difference.
Inflamed gums often lead to open sores, leaving your gum tissue vulnerable to infection. Cavities are even worse. When the hard enamel shell of your teeth breaks down, it creates an open hole where bacteria can penetrate and end up in your blood stream.
Plaque build-up also means a high concentration of bacteria, which is swallowed and consumed when you eat or drink. Though not as dangerous to your health as bacteria in the blood, it's still not great over the long term to be adding unfamiliar microbes to your digestive system any more than necessary.
All of this added bacteria is obviously not going to be good for you, and it can be a particular risk if you already have other illnesses. It can increase vascular inflammation, making heart disease symptoms worse and may even develop into endocarditis. Your lungs can also be effected by an increase in oral bacteria, leading to repeated infections.
It's also been found that gum disease (periodontitis) is linked to having a premature birth due to the strain on the mother's immune system. If that wasn't enough, the elevated bacteria levels can also worsen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
You can also consider your oral health as a possible warning indicator for other illnesses.
Bad breath, for example, isn't just a symptom of unbrushed teeth. You can also develop noticeable bad breath if you have a pulmonary infection (such as bronchitis or pneumonia). People with uncontrolled diabetes can find they get frequent episodes of gum disease, so that may be something to check on if you have constant difficulty keeping your gums healthy. (If you are simply dealing with a case of basic bad breath, you can try these coconut oil breath mints.)
Sores on your lips or inside the mouth can be a common herpes simplex “cold sore” or could be signs of a more serious STD like syphilis. Lumps, swellings, white patches or numbness in the mouth could be signs of something serious like oral cancer.
Overall, your mouth is a not just an isolated part of your body.
Good oral hygiene and dental care can go a long way to keeping your whole body healthy. There really is no reason to let bad oral care lead to serious health complications. Brush at least twice a day with a quality toothpaste, and see the dentist for cleanings and check-ups annually.