13 Side Effects of Not Brushing Your Teeth
Flossing and brushing your teeth should be a part of your daily routine. Unfortunately, most people don’t brush or floss their teeth as often as dentists recommend. Poor dental hygiene can lead to dental issues, and more serious health conditions you may not be aware of in the long term.
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Conditions linked to poor oral hygiene
Your mouth could be the gateway to many health problems aside from cavities and toothache. Here is what scientists have linked to not brushing your teeth regularly.
Contrary to popular belief, bleeding gums when flossing or brushing isn’t normal. If your gums bleed, you might have gum disease, or it’s in the early development stages. Gingivitis, the initial stage of gum disease which is completely reversible, is inflammation of the gums, making them red, quick to bleed, and swollen. Bacteria cause it in the plaque, which builds up between the gums and teeth over time.
If it’s not addressed, plaque can create pockets susceptible to infection between the teeth. As a result, bone and tooth-supporting structures in the mouth weaken over time, leading to infections and mobility of teeth. At this stage, the gum disease is known as periodontitis.
Poor dental care can lead to tooth loss. Research shows that adults between 20 and 64 years have lost about seven permanent teeth, and 10% of American adults aged between 50 and 64 years are toothless. Gum disease and cavities can cause tooth loss (1).
Maintaining good oral hygiene is key to keeping your mouth and bones healthy. Bacteria build-up in the mouth can result in a slow deterioration of connective tissues supporting your teeth. When teeth start getting loose, you’ll be prone to other infections and illnesses (2).
Although bad breath is a symptom of several diseases and conditions, bad oral hygiene is the leading cause. Food particles left in the mouth for too long help bacteria to build up, causing bad breath.
The tongue’s coating and bacterial overgrowth also contribute to bad breath. Research shows that cleaning the tongue when brushing and flossing can help ease halitosis.
Mouth and stomach ulcers
Poor oral health and tooth decay can lead to formations of ulcers below the gum line. Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria linked to stomach ulcers) can hide in tiny reservoirs below the gum and worsen stomach ulcers.
The reservoirs below the gums can also harbour other bacteria, leading to other infections and health problems (3).
Pathogens in your mouth can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can lead to all kinds of problems. Part of the problems one can develop include pneumonia. Improved dental hygiene can reduce the chances of developing pneumonia by 40% (4).
A long-term study revealed a link between dementia and poor oral hygiene (3). However, there’s a possibility that people with great oral hygiene generally have better health habits. In the study that lasted for 18 years, individuals who didn’t brush their teeth regularly had up to 65% chance of developing dementia compared to those who brushed and flossed thrice a day (5).
The relationship between diabetes and periodontitis is bidirectional. This means diabetes is a risk factor for periodontitis and vice versa. Poor dental health can lead to severe inflammation, which can cause insulin resistance and diabetes (6).
Individuals with chronic kidney disease are 4.5 times more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. This makes poor oral hygiene a stronger risk factor for kidney disease than high cholesterol levels. Even worse, adults without teeth are 11 times more likely to develop kidney disease (7).
Many studies show a link between heart and gum disease as they are both linked to inflammation. Following a strict oral care routine can help improve dental hygiene and reduce the risk of developing heart problems (8).
While the link between poor oral hygiene and erectile dysfunction might seem like a hoax, it’s not. Although the two are linked to Vitamin D deficiency, general inflammation, and smoking, the true link between them is a mystery.
A study in rats determined that periodontitis affected the penis’s function. While it’s not clear whether the same results would be seen in humans, 53% of a group of patients with erectile dysfunction between 30 and 40 have periodontitis. On the flip side, only 23% of this population didn’t have erectile dysfunction (9).
Pregnancy and birth complications
Gingivitis affects between 60 and 75% of expectant women. As such, it’s crucial that mothers take care of their teeth lest they experience dental problems. Even worse, expectant mothers with dental problems are more likely to have kids that’ll develop cavities. Moreover, it’s linked to preterm birth and low birth weight, although there isn’t sufficient evidence to determine if it’s an independent risk factor (10).
After reviewing several studies, a researcher determined there’s a link between periodontal disease and the risk of oral cancer. Although smoking is the main risk factor for cancer and gum disease, a study with 3,439 people determined poor oral health is an independent risk factor for oral cancer even after accounting for smoking habits (11).
What to do to avoid the side effects of not brushing your teeth
People usually have varied views of what good oral hygiene is. However, according to the American Dental Association, properly taking care of your teeth to avoid these long term consequences include:
- Brush twice daily – brushing your teeth twice every day with fluoride toothpaste helps reduce bacteria. Spend two minutes brushing your teeth to ensure that you remove all the plaque built up.
- Floss daily – floss your teeth once every day. If you aren’t a fan of flossing, try water flossing, dental picks, or an interdental brush.
- Visit the dentist – visit your dentist twice a year. Some dentists recommend more times than this, but twice as a minimum is good if you don’t have gum disease or cavity problems.
Though it might seem like an insignificant process in your daily routine, brushing your teeth twice a day helps to prevent several short-term and long-term health problems. Visit a dentist regularly to get ahead of some of these problems.
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