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The Health Risks of Poor Dental Health for Adults

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ScreenHunter_877 Feb. 04 10.32February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and it offers a reminder to parents to prioritize their child’s dental health. For children especially, dental health is important because the health of primary teeth can change quickly. Even in just the six months between regularly dental visits, diet or hygiene changes, along with oral habits like thumb-sucking, can open the door to tooth decay or misalignment.

However, once individuals reach adulthood, those regular dental visits they had as kids begin to fall away.

According to the “Oral Health and Well-Being in the United States” survey conducted by the American Dental Association, only 37 percent of adults have visited a dentist in the past year. By comparison, 65 percent of children visited a dentist in the past year.

Why is dental health important for adults?

The impact of poor oral health on adults is sometimes obvious. Individuals with poor oral hygiene report anxiety and embarrassment due to the condition of their teeth. Between 35 and 40 percent of adults that reported poor oral condition have reported feelings of anxiety and embarrassment, and avoid smiling. Many of those attribute their poor oral health to their inability to interview well for jobs or find a mate.

But dental health is important for more reasons than mere attractiveness. Adults that do not take proper care of their teeth are at higher risk for disease and chronic conditions.

What conditions are connected to poor oral health?

Like other areas of the body, your mouth teems with bacteria — mostly harmless. But your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria are connected to larger health conditions.

According to Mayo Clinic, the following health conditions can be related to poor oral health:

  • Endocarditis: This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Although the connection is not fully understood, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Pregnancy and birth complications: Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Pneumonia: Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

It’s never too late to resurrect your oral health

Adults that have overlooked their oral health aren’t a lost cause. It’s never too late to turn around your oral hygiene practices. The things dentists told you during your childhood visits still apply: Brush twice daily, use fluoride toothpaste, brush your tongue, floss daily, limit your sugar intake and drink lots of water. Practicing these habits will give you more benefits than simply a pretty smile.

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