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The Importance of Oral Health in Fighting Off Disease

Most people realize that if we want to be healthy, we need to take care of our mouths. Oral hygiene is an important part of overall wellness and requires daily care—even more so than most other areas of our body!

However, while the links between oral health and wellness overall have been established in the scientific community, many people don’t realize how closely related these two issues are.

How Poor Oral Health Can Put You at Risk

The signs of poor oral health are pretty widely known these days:

What is less well-known is how significant something like gum disease can be for the other systems in our body. Our oral health status is closely tied to our disease risk in many other areas.

Cardiovascular Disease

Periodontal disease (the disease state brought on by poor oral hygiene) and cardiovascular disease share common risk factors. The bodily stress created by gum inflammation can increase the body’s stress response in other areas.

Although the exact relationship between oral health and cardiovascular disease is not fully understood, some experts believe that the presence of inflamed and bleeding gum tissue may raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes by as much as 50 percent.


Just like cardiovascular disease, the mechanisms linking oral health and cancer are still being studied. However, research has shown that the oxidative stress caused by periodontal disease and gum inflammation can damage other tissues in the body, leading to abnormal cell growth and possible mutations.

Periodontal disease can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 64 percent, and prostate cancer by 53 percent. Its links to breast cancer are also being studied.

Respiratory Disease

With poor oral hygiene, large amounts of bacteria live freely in our mouths. Indeed, the mouth is an ideal reservoir for bacterial communities to develop. When left untreated, these bacteria may travel from our mouths to our airways, and into our lungs.

This displaced bacteria may lead to respiratory infection and other diseases of the lung. In elderly individuals or in those with compromised immune systems, these infections can be serious and often fatal.


Unlike the other conditions listed so far, dementia is an example of a medical condition that can inhibit oral hygiene itself. As degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s progress, individuals lose the ability self-regulate and often begin to neglect their daily care routines. Oral health issues are common in dementia patients, which, as we know, contributes to the formation of other health problems.

Preserving your health through oral hygiene

Clearly, the relationship between oral health and systemic health is a two-way street. Systemic health problems can impair a person’s oral hygiene routines, and disrupted oral health management can contribute to the development of more serious systemic diseases.

So, what can you do to preserve your heath?

Above all, education is the best line of defense. Patients concerned about their health should understand the links between these conditions and how something as simple as daily brushing and flossing can reduce their risk of disease. A strong dental fitness program is a must for all individuals. Chiefly, this type of program should include:

Although the links between oral health and systemic health are still being studied, there are clear associations between the health of your mouth and the health of your body. Keep these associations in mind each day as a way to motivate yourself to keep up with your daily oral care—something as simple as brushing your teeth may end up saving your life.

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