Most of know that poor dental hygiene can cause tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath -but poor dental health may be the cause of other health conditions.
Research is still underway with Universities around the world, but it is well recognised that poor dental health leads to an array of risk of factors causing poor health and potentially causing other serious illnesses.
Dentists recommend that we brush for 2 minutes, twice daily, as well as it being important to floss daily, to clear away the bacterial film that hides in between the teeth, and can not be removed with brushing only. Six monthly professional scaling and cleaning and dental checks are recommended,
In 2010, a small New York University (NYU) study found a link between gum inflammation and Alzheimer's disease, following review of 20 years of data from Denmark. Gum disease at the age of 70 was associated with lower scores for cognitive ability, even when taking other factors, such as obesity, smoking and tooth loss into account.
In 2013, a UK study showed that a type of bacteria in some people's mouths - Porphyromonas gingivalis - which is usually associated with chronic gum disease - was found in the Alzheimer's brain samples but was not found in the samples of the brains of people who did not have Alzheimer's.
Scientific evidence in 2014, with a follow up study, showed that two of the three gum disease-causing bacteria are capable of movement and have been showing up in brain tissue samples. The mobile bacteria leave the mouth and enter the brain in two ways, by directly entering the brain, crawling up the nerves that connect the brain and the roots of the teeth. The other path the bacteria can travel is through the blood circulation system and into the brain. With bleeding gums, the gum disease-causing bacteria will enter the blood stream every time we clean our teeth and even when we eat food.
The main bacteria that causes inflammation around the gums is a type of bacteria known as P. gingivalis, which has found ways to attach to red blood cells in the blood stream and instead of leaving the red blood cells in the spleen, they choose to travel into the brain at a point where there are no immune checkpoints, and where they then spread through the brain. The blood vessels tend to enlarge and become leaky as people get older, making them even more vulnerable to disease.
Research has demonstrated that chemicals released by the immune system of the brain happen when periodontal disease causing bacteria get inside the brain leading to damage of functioning nerve cells in the part of the brain that relates to memory.
Research at Harvard University in 2007 found a link between periodontal disease and pancreatic cancer, however the exact way this comes about is still unknown.
Periodontal disease is where inflammation in the gum tissue that sits around the teeth leads to a loss of bone from around the teeth that cannot be reversed.
Gingivitis is the where the tissue around the teeth becomes inflamed because bacteria in the plaque around the teeth builds up due to poor dental hygiene - and was not linked to increased cancer risk. However, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis- where jaw bone is lost from around the teeth - if it is not treated.
A Harvard research review of over 50 000 men found that a history of gum disease and particularly recent tooth loss had a 64% increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Tooth decay had no increased risk for cancer.
It is thought that there may be high levels of carcinogenic compounds - called nitrosamines - in the mouths of people with periodontal disease which may react to the digestive chemicals in the gut creating an environment that leads to pancreatic cancer. Further research in 2012 could only prove a link, and was unable to prove whether the periodontitis bacteria cause or are because of pancreatic cancer, and it has still not been established as a risk factor because of the lack of actual proof.
A study in 2008, found that people with bleeding gums from poor dental hygiene could increase their risk of heart disease. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and stick to platelets, which can then form blood clots, interrupting the flow of blood to the heart and triggering a heart attack. There are up to 700 different types of bacteria that live in our mouths.
Heart disease is the biggest killer in the western world. Bacteria from the mouth can cause bacterial infections, which are a recognised risk factor for heart disease.
A Bristol University study found that bacteria interact with platelets by copying the pressure inside the blood vessels and the heart. The bacteria causes the platelets to clump together, which allows the bacteria to hide inside from attack by immune cells and makes them less detectable to antibiotics.