I’ve been told more than several times on my monthly visits to the orthodontist that I need to take better care of my teeth. The buildup of plaque from food residue and leftovers can slowly harden up over time, creating an environment ripe for cavities and tooth decay.
But most of us are aware of these risks- the fact that bad dental hygiene leads to gingivitis, cavities, and periodontitis is a mantra that has been repeated over and over again by dental practitioners all around the world. Yet recent research has shown that there are even more exterior harms that can arise as a result of bad hygiene.
Take, for instance, Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2010, researchers from NYU looked at the cognitive test scores of subjects between the ages of 50 to 70, and concluded that those with gum inflammation scored consistently lower than those who kept their teeth healthy. New analysis also found the presence of a bacterium- “Porphyromonas ginivalis” – in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients that is associated with chronic gum disease. It’s been theorized that the bacterium, which is usually found in diseased gums, enters its way into the brain tissue via the roots of teeth, nervous system, the circulatory system when the gums start to bleed, and is a potential source of Alzheimer’s disease.
A second tangible benefit to healthy teeth is the lowered risk of heart disease. Researchers have found a correlation between bleeding gums and cardiovascular disease. In patients with bleeding gums, bacteria from the mouth are able to enter the circulatory system. There, the bacteria are able to surround themselves with platelets, and this “armor” shields them from potential antibody attacks. As they move up the bloodstream, they can form blood clots and interrupt the flow of blood to the heart- increasing the risk for a heart attack.