Seven Surprising Ways Oral Hygiene May Affect Your Health

Oral hygiene is about more than preserving a sparkling smile -- it has a direct effect on your health. The mouth harbors an enormous amount of bacteria, and when you fail to brush and floss, that bacteria multiplies and affects your whole body.

A number of health conditions may be linked to decay-causing oral bacteria and gum disease, although more research is needed to confirm some of the connections. Here are a few health issues that may be related to oral hygiene.

Gum disease

Failing to brush and floss leads to gum disease. Plaque accumulates and the associated bacteria infiltrate the gums. Early gum disease, known as gingivitis, causes swelling of your gums and may make them bleed when you do brush or floss.

With time, it progresses to serious gum disease that left unchecked, can lead to gum recession and tooth loss.  

Heart disease

Poor oral hygiene may allow oral bacteria to get into your bloodstream. Researchers believe the bacteria may play a role in the plaques that form inside blood vessels. Plaque buildup in the coronary arteries can cause a heart attack.


One kind of stroke occurs when a blood vessel is blocked, causing the brain to be deprived of oxygen. When your oral hygiene isn’t up to par, the increased bacteria in your body can contribute to the narrowing of arteries through plaque formation, just like in heart disease.


Some studies show a connection between specific gum disease bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. One small study found that some people with these age-related cognitive decline had strains of oral bacteria in their brains.

Researchers hypothesize that everyday activities, such as eating and certain dental procedures, may allow the bacteria to enter the brain. One theory is that repeated exposure to this bacteria may contribute to the death of nerve cells in the brain, leading to memory loss.


Endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium, which is the inner lining of the heart. When bacteria from your mouth spread through your bloodstream, they can attach to vulnerable areas in the endocardium and create areas of infection.

Endocarditis leads to flu-like symptoms, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Gone untreated, it can lead to heart problems, kidney damage, and seizures.


If you have diabetes, your oral health is of paramount concern because gum disease and diabetes can become a cycle, where one affects the other. Poor control of blood glucose levels puts you at higher risk for gum disease. In addition, people with diabetes tend to have dry mouth, which contributes to gum disease and tooth decay.

When you have diabetes, you may experience more severe gum disease that takes longer to heal. And if your gums become infected, it can make it harder for you to control your blood glucose.

Respiratory infections

Decay-causing bacteria from your mouth can spread to your lungs, aggravating chronic lung diseases or making you more susceptible to pneumonia. Normal breathing can move bacteria from your teeth and gums into your lungs, where they can colonize the lung tissues.

Good oral hygiene is an easy habit: just brush after meals and floss daily. Visit the office of Nataly Vilderman, DDS at least twice a year for professional cleanings, which can reach areas that aren’t as accessible with a regular toothbrush.

If you already have gum disease, Dr. Vilderman can set up a treatment plan that provides a deep cleaning to reduce the spread of the bacteria to other teeth and throughout your body. Call to make an appointment, or use the convenient online booking tool.

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