Why Maintaining Good Oral Health Prevents Heart Disease, Diabetes and Other Illnesses

by Mark Grant

Child brushing teeth

Photocredit: © tashka2000 – Fotolia.com

We all know that looking after our teeth with an effective oral hygiene routine helps to prevent problems such as cavities and gum disease.

However, few are aware that illnesses which occur in other areas of the body have links to poor oral hygiene.

By taking proper care of your teeth, you do not only save on dentist bills but also potentially save on other treatment costs and more importantly help to keep yourself in good health.

According to an in depth study at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, there are over 600 different species of bacteria which live in the mouth. The total number of individual bacteria to be found in a healthy human mouth exceeds 6 billion. The study also revealed that the species & levels of bacteria living in unhealthy mouths are very different from the bacteria living in healthy mouths.

Although most oral bacteria do not present a problem and are very beneficial, some species offer a potential threat to not only oral health but also overall health if they are allowed to get out of hand.

Other Illnesses Which Can Be Caused By Poor Oral Health

Heart Attacks & Strokes

According to research from the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), severe forms of gum disease which have gone untreated for a considerable length of time may be linked to heart disease, stroke and clogged arteries. This is due to chronic inflammation of non-oral tissues caused by an excess of the type of bacteria which causes gum disease.

Kidney Disease

Dental health specialists at the AAP have discovered a possible link between adults who have few on no natural teeth and the development of chronic kidney disease, which in turn causes blood pressure problems, bone related illnesses and can also lead to cardiovascular problems and even kidney failure.


Gum disease is often considered to be a complication of diabetes. A dental health research team from a prestigious New York University College of dentistry discovered that patients suffering from chronic gum disease often also developed severe diabetes. Their research also showed if it was successfully treated with antibiotics improved control blood-sugar levels was achieved.

Their study concluded with a suggestion that treating severe gum disease is essential for bringing diabetes under long-term control and that diabetic patients who also suffer from gum disease have an increased risk of developing other diabetic complications.

Alzheimer ’s Disease

This  is another illness which some studies have indicated that gum disease may be a contributing cause. New York University research suggests that individuals who have considerable tooth loss before reaching their mid thirties and suffered prolonged gum disease are 4 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Erectile Dysfunction

In December 2011 a publication in the Journal of Periodontology showed that of the seventy men who took part in a research study, those who had poor oral hygiene produced lower readings of nitric oxide in their blood.

Blood flow is hindered when there is a lack of nitric oxide in the blood. Low blood flow can cause a number of circulatory problems including erectile dysfunction.


Research published in the Journal of Periodontology indicated a link between poor oral hygiene and bronchitis. The oral health of 100 individuals who were at the time suffering from bronchitis was compared to the oral health of a control group of 100 healthy individuals. The control group were shown to have substantially better oral health than those with bronchitis.


Research scientists at Tohoku University in Japan examined the effect of poor dental hygiene within a selection of elderly participants in a research in 2002.

It was discovered that those who had regular checkups and scale & polishes at a dental clinic were half as likely to contract pneumonia and also were at significantly less risk of having a fatal pneumonic infection.

Premature Birth

The International Association for Dental Research published a study by a North Carolina university which included in excess of 800 women taking place over a 5 year period. The study indicated that women who suffer from severe or moderate gum disease during the time when they are pregnant are at an elevated risk of giving birth prematurely.

It is believed that such a gum infection can increase levels of certain biological fluids which trigger labor.

Taking Preventative Measures

You can take preventative measures with an effective oral hygiene routine such as brushing your teeth twice a day, regular flossing, dental checkups at least twice a year and seeking out treatment for any dental issues as they occur. Ensuring that you have good oral health can reduce the chances of developing the systemic illnesses mentioned above.

(Mark Grant is a dental health author who has published many articles on behalf of a dental implant provider in the UK, DentalCare Plus. Visit their site to find out more about dental implants and other advanced dentistry procedures.)

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