As we eat food and drink fluids, a sticky substance called plaque can build up on our teeth. Over time, this plaque buildup can cause an erosion of tooth enamel leading to a condition known as tooth decay. If left untreated, tooth decay can really affect your health in the worst way. In fact, tooth decay can open the door to serious and potentially life-threatening health problems.
The Beginning of Trouble
Tooth decay is really the beginning of trouble for those suffering from it. If untreated, this decay can cause bad breath, make your teeth look horrendous, and cause infections which may lead to the following problems:
Abscessed Tooth – Severe tooth decay can lead to an oral infection resulting in an abscessed tooth, which is a very painful experience causing symptoms like a swollen jaw or glands, inability to chew food and an open wound to the gums.
Gingivitis – That same infection that affects an abscessed tooth can also lead to gingivitis, which is a gum disease (periodontal disease) that can cause a very painful swelling and inflammation of the gums. In severe cases, gingivitis can lead to trench mouth which also involves bleeding of the gums and ulcerations.
Serious Health Problems
The scary part about a tooth infection is that the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. If it reaches major organs like the heart or brain, the risks of life-threatening conditions increase.
Heart Disease – Although the link is still being studied, scientists are finding overwhelming evidence that infections caused by oral issues like tooth decay or gingivitis can lead to an increase of heart attacks, strokes, and endocarditis.
Cancer – Over the last few years, research has found that poor dental hygiene can lead to an increased risk of developing pancreas, kidney and blood cancers.
Brain and Cognitive Issues – tooth loss as a result of tooth decay has been linked to issues with cognitive function. According to one study, tooth loss increased the risk of memory loss and early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Other potential brain issues include a brain abscess, dementia, and comas.
Respiratory Problems – Not only can the infection spread upward into the nasal passage and cause sinus infections, but it can also travel into the lungs and cause respiratory infections and pneumonia. Additionally, the swollenness from a severe tooth infection can also restrict the airway leading to breathing difficulties.
Diabetes – According to the American Diabetics Association, the relationship between diabetes and oral gum disease or infections is a two-way street. First, diabetics are more susceptible to gum diseases and infections since their bodies can’t properly fight off the bacteria. Second, serious gum diseases and tooth infections can make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar which can lead to a progression of this disease.
Issues with Infertility and Birth – Researchers in Europe found that gum diseases and infections can delay a woman from becoming pregnant by up to seven months. Taking it one step further, the March of Dimes believe that premature births can be a result of infections in the mother’s body. This includes oral infections. For men, tooth infections and gum disease can spread into the blood and eventually, lead to issues like erectile dysfunction.
Ludwig Angina – This is an infection of the floor of the mouth, underneath the tongue. It can make eating, swallowing and even breathing a difficult task. In severe cases, this infection can lead to complications like septic shock.
Oral Hygiene Recommendations
Reputable institutions like the Mayo Clinic recommend the following dental hygiene practices to prevent tooth decay and related oral issues:
- Brush your teeth at least two times per day.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits your mouth. Additionally, an electric toothbrush may even be more effective for reducing plaque. Also, use a fluoride toothpaste when brushing your teeth.
- Always keep your toothbrush clean, to prevent any contaminations.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
- Floss your teeth at least once per day. Make sure to address each tooth and don’t rush the flossing.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Even if you don’t have any known issues, it’s always good to have your dentist check out your teeth and gums to ensure proper health.
Tooth decay is a serious condition which shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’re struggling with painful teeth, then it might be time to see your dentist. Are you taking care of your teeth as well as you should be?
About The Author:
Steven is a dentist and author for Authority Dental. Graduated in 1992, he obtained his DMD degree from the faculty of dentistry at the University of British Columbia. Steven created Authority Dental to help people find the answers they’ve been looking for to their dentistry questions. In his spare time, he enjoys fly fishing in North Central Colorado and in Wyoming, along with spending time with his family.