Why is it dangerous to ignore oral health?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If the eyes are the window to your soul, then the mouth should be the door to your heart. Not just because it is key to a loving kiss, a pretty smile and savoring a meal, but also because poor oral health can be the root cause of some serious health problems, including heart disease. Yet, many Americans, even those with good access to healthcare and insurance, don't give oral care the attention it deserves. We bypass brushing, forgo the floss and dodge the dentist until there is a problem. Some adults have such heightened dental anxiety they never set foot in a dentist's office.

But research is unearthing evidence that says that skipping mouth care is a dangerous strategy because what begins quietly at the gum line can later set off a chain of events that can lead to heart attack, memory loss, stroke and miscarriage. And of all the measures we know of that can avert a potentially life-threatening disease, oral care is probably one the most effortless activities one can do.

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It is dangerous to ignore your oral health because it impacts your overall health. When your teeth and gums are unhealthy and inflamed, bacteria can flow into your bloodstream and down to your heart and other organs. Studies have shown that people with gum disease are more likely to have heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.

When you ignore your oral health, you can worsen your diabetes, become more prone to conditions like kidney disease, and if pregnant, jeopardize the birth weight of your baby.
Romesh Nalliah

Many people and health care professionals do not realize how intimately the oral cavity is connected to the rest of the human body. For some reason, people often ignore an oral cavity infection but would never ignore an infection in any other cavity of the human body. Research now suggests that early signs of HIV can be identified in the mouth. There is evidence that some medical conditions worsen dental conditions and vice versa (for example diabetes and periodontal health). Additionally, there is some evidence that medical conditions may occur synchronously with dental conditions (for example, research suggests that chronic kidney disease is associated with periodontal disease). This research clearly demonstrates the close relationship of the mouth to the rest of the body and we must be vigilant in maintaining oral and general health.

The oral cavity, teeth and soft tissues, are part of your entire body. The health of your mouth can have a profound effect on your general health. Oral infections such as dental abscesses, sexually transmitted diseases and periodontal (gum) disease have been shown to have direct consequences to your overall wellbeing. Just as you care for your entire body, maintaining optimal dental health will enhance your quality of life.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.