Taking good care of your mouth, teeth and gums is a worthy goal in and of itself. Good oral and dental hygiene can help prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease—and can help you keep your teeth as you get older.
Researchers are also discovering new reasons to brush and floss. A healthy mouth may help you ward off medical disorders. The flip side? An unhealthy mouth, especially if you have gum disease, may increase your risk of serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes and preterm labor.
The case for good oral hygiene keeps getting stronger. Understand the importance of oral health — and its connection to your overall health.
The problem with dental plaque: Links to infections and diseases
Though your saliva helps protect you against some invaders, it can’t always do the job. More than 500 species of bacteria thrive in your mouth at any given time. These bacteria constantly form dental plaque — a sticky, colorless film that can cling to your teeth and cause health problems.
Your mouth as infection source
If you don’t brush and floss regularly to keep your teeth clean, plaque can build up along your gumline, creating an environment for additional bacteria to accumulate in the space between your gums and your teeth. This gum infection is known as gingivitis. Left unchecked, gingivitis can lead to a more serious gum infection called periodontitis. The most severe form of gum infection is called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, also known as trench mouth.