Bad teeth are caused by bacteria that live on the surface of teeth and may directly affect the tooth or have an impact on the surrounding gums and supporting bone. Bacteria may produce sulphur which may contribute to bad breath odour and decayed teeth. But the bacteria and infections aren't isolated to the mouth. They can provoke poor health in other parts of the body too.
What Do Bad Teeth and Health Look Like?
It may not be obvious to the untrained eye how bad teeth look in the early stages. With poor oral hygiene, bacteria build up in the mouth and the enamel loses minerals which can cause white spots to appear on the teeth. The spot is the first sign of tooth decay, and if left untreated, the weakened enamel allows small holes to form called cavities. When the decay reaches the dentin under the enamel, it proceeds quickly, making the pulp or nerve inflamed, and this may cause sensitivity to hot and cold things. If the bacteria reach the nerve (pulp), severe infections in the nerve can result in severe toothache and abscesses in the pulp and around the roots. The gums may also become swollen and they may be more likely to bleed. This may progress to a point where pockets develop around the teeth where the gum essentially becomes detached from the teeth and in severe cases, a gum abscess with pus can develop. The infection can spread to the jaw bones and neck. Badly decayed teeth can also be discoloured and at risk of loosening and falling out.
Healthy teeth are white with no sign of plaque or tartar build-up around teeth and gums. The gums have a healthy pink colour, are firm, and don’t bleed when brushed or flossed.
Bad health can manifest itself in various ways, much beyond just discomfort in the mouth. When oral infections spread beyond the oral cavity, they can result in systemic illnesses that can affect the entire body. Severe gum disease can also lead to cardiovascular and respiratory issues, presenting as persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, or chest tightness.
How Bad Teeth Can Affect Your Health
When gum disease is left untreated, it can break down the soft tissue in the mouth. The decline of the tissue can lead to chronic pain, difficulties speaking and swallowing, loss of sleep, and tooth loss. These can contribute to poor overall health.
Organ Damage Caused by Bad Teeth
The plaque that forms on the teeth after not brushing is the same type that builds up in the arteries. People with gum disease are at 2 to 3 times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Gum disease provokes an attack by the immune system, which triggers inflammation, and chronic inflammation can cause arthritis, diabetes, and respiratory disease.
A study has made a link between people with severe gum disease and immune overreactions known as cytokine storm, which can lead to vascular collapse, respiratory failure, and organ problems. People with periodontal disease are more likely to suffer from a cytokine storm and negative reactions from COVID-19 infections.
Lifestyle Choices and Impacts
There are lifestyle choices that are extremely harmful to our oral health, and even more when dental conditions are poor. Drinking alcohol and smoking can affect a person’s breath long after the last drink or smoke. Beyond teeth, these habits can also cause numerous general health concerns.
When you’re experiencing pain caused by tooth decay, you’re likely to avoid some foods. Uncooked fruits and vegetables, for example, may be harder to eat with sore teeth, but you may be missing out on excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.
Bad Teeth and Mental Health
It’s not just physical health that needs to be considered. A study found a possible link between gum disease and cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Tooth decay causes inflammation of the gums, which can contribute to brain inflammation, neurodegeneration, and Alzheimer’s.
People with bad teeth often cite that as the main cause of their social issues. They may feel embarrassed or self-conscious about their bad teeth, so they limit their social interactions. Bad teeth can stop a person from smiling, laughing, talking, and enjoying themselves to avoid other people from seeing their teeth. Over time, this can lead to social anxiety and depression for some.
Bad Teeth in Children
It’s not just adults who are at risk. Children can suffer from tooth decay and chronic paediatric disease. Drinking milk from a bottle at bedtime, a sugary diet, and not having their teeth brushed twice daily by an adult (or themselves in later childhood) can cause multiple cavities.
If cavities are left untreated, teeth can get highly damaged to the point of needing surgery to remove some of their baby teeth. No parent wants to see their child going through general anaesthetic for an avoidable issue. Cavities or pulled teeth can cause speech impairments, poor jaw development, crooked adult teeth, and social problems.
Bad Breath Can Be a Sign of Poor Health
In some cases, bad breath doesn’t cause a health problem but can act as a sign that a person is unwell. Some cancers and metabolic disorders can cause a distinctive breath odour due to different chemicals produced in the body. Reflux of stomach acids can also cause bad breath, just like chronic inflammation of the nose, throat, or sinus.
The condition of a dry mouth can cause bad breath. We need saliva to remove food particles and cleanse the mouth to help keep our breath fresh. When there isn’t enough saliva, bad breath can follow, and one of the leading causes of dry mouth is taking certain medications.
What You Can Do
Either way, if you have gum disease or decay or none of those, make sure your dental hygiene is as good as it can be. Brushing your teeth and flossing twice daily ensures the removal of any trapped food and plaque. Make brushing your tongue part of your habit, as it can also harbour bacteria. Don’t forget to plan a trip to see your dentist every 6 months for a professional clean and checkup.
As a last bonus tip - our mouths benefit from drinking plenty of water. Skip the sugary drinks and get 6-8 glasses of water every day. The good news is that poor dental health doesn’t happen overnight, but it will build up over time.
If you have any queries or concerns about your oral hygiene, don’t hesitate to call your nearest clinic and chat with one of our specialists or book an appointment online.