Good oral hygiene is a step toward a healthier life. Oral disease has a connection to many other health conditions in other parts of your body, and some diseases may increase the development of oral disease.

A healthy mouth includes healthy gums and healthy saliva production. Healthy gums help prevent the entry of bacteria into the bloodstream. The saliva in your mouth contains enzymes that help destroy bacteria and viruses, offering important protection against infection. In contrast, gum disease may provide bacteria a port of entry into your bloodstream.

Research suggests that bacteria and inflammation from your mouth are linked to other health problems. Some examples include:

  • Diabetes increases your risk of infections, gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, dry mouth, and a variety of oral infections. Poor oral health can make your diabetes more difficult to control. For example, oral infections may cause your blood sugar to rise and require more insulin to keep it under control.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Pneumonia have both been associated with poor oral health. Bacteria may be released into saliva and then aspirated into the lower airway causing infection.
  • The inflammation process in the mouth may be a clue to look for inflammatory processes occurring in other parts of the body, such as your arteries.
  • The first stages of bone loss may show up in your teeth. If bone loss worsens in your mouth, your dentist may suggest that you consult with your family doctor to determine if there is a problem, such as osteoporosis, occurring systemically with your skeletal system.
  • Periodontal diseases may increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as premature birth and low birth weight. Periodontal disease or “chronic infection” stimulates the inflammatory process, which may trigger labor prematurely.

Given the links between a healthy mouth and a healthy body, make sure to follow these 6 simple steps to good dental hygiene:

  1. Look for the ADA Seal when choosing a dental product. It is an important symbol of a dental product’s safety and effectiveness.
  2. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled tooth brush. Brushing is important for your teeth, but also to stimulate your gums. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed.
  3. Use toothpaste with fluoride in it. Most toothpaste products have fluoride in it. For children two and older, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is all that is needed. Remember to supervise children when brushing their teeth to ensure proper technique; make sure your child spits out the toothpaste rather than swallowing it.
  4. Use floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between teeth every day. Decay–causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles cannot reach. This helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
  5. Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams. Check-ups can detect early signs of oral health problems. Update your medical history with your dentist to include all medications; many medications impact your salivary flow leading to dry mouth.
  6. Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. If you need a snack, choose nutritious foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese, or a piece of fruit.