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Oral health doesn’t only relate to the types of foods that you eat. Obviously, certain foods are healthier than others both in regards to protecting the teeth from damage and gaining the nutrients needed to maintain good overall health. Good oral health though also involves other actions. If you fail to brush your teeth, floss and use a mouthwash daily, see a dentist regularly and/or treat physical defects, your subsequent poor oral health can adversely impact your total health, including the state of your joints. Consider the following ways that poor oral health causes harm:

Gum Disease

The gums around your teeth protect roots and bone from decay that can cause loose teeth and total tooth loss. People with poor oral health habits experience gum inflammation and bleeding. Their gums start to pull away and then food particles along with bacteria that cause decay spread below the gum line. Associated symptoms and damage eventually lead to painful gum and facial tissue inflammation and infections that send pain into the jaw joints.

Tooth Decay

Bacteria in your mouth create acids that cause tooth decay. Certain medications, health conditions, and natural aging also soften enamel and damage teeth. Tooth decay can cause infections that damage the jaw bone and the palette and can even cause death if left untreated. It’s critical that you visit a dental clinic twice yearly for check-ups and cleanings. It’s also a good idea to schedule an appointment immediately whenever you suspect that you have tooth decay or an oral infection.

Systemic Infections

Micro-organisms that live inside of your mouth, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, can also cause a wide range of infections beyond the mouth without traveling below the gum line. When you fail to reduce the number of these micro-organisms daily through good oral health practices, you increase the chances of micro-organism overgrowth that can spread to the tonsils and lymph nodes, respiratory system, and other areas. These microorganisms can cause inflammation and pain in the joints throughout your body. Some infections even cause permanent joint damage.

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Structural Wear

Lastly, any type of oral structural issue can cause a variety of scenarios that lead to pain and damage in the jaw joints and elsewhere. For example, an uneven bite from bad teeth alignment or tooth wear, heightened pressure from habitual or nighttime teeth grinding/clenching or a tilted jaw from a natural birth defect can cause pain and inflammation. The related symptoms can extend through the face into the jaw joints and even down the neck into the shoulders where it affects other joints. Failure to treat these issues with help from a dentist and/or orthodontist can permanently damage the discs in the jaw joints and even cause the jaw to lock.

Since natural aging alone can cause gum disease, decay and other issues, it’s incredibly important that you follow good oral health habits throughout your life to reduce the risk. As some adults age, they get so caught up with their lives and fatigue that they forget or feel that they don’t have the time to clean their teeth and mouth daily or visit a dentist. The good news is that the earliest stages of gum disease, for example, can actually be reversed with daily brushing of the teeth and gums. Even if you’re experiencing severe damage and infections, you still have options. It’s never too late. Start following good oral health habits at home and with assistance from a dentist today.