Dental Problems Related to Poor Oral Hygiene

Your dentist and hygienist will no doubt have told you that it’s essential to brush twice a day and floss every day. But why is this so important? Well, brushing and flossing help to get rid of plaque, a sticky substance containing bacteria. Poor oral hygiene, on the other hand, allows plaque to build up on the teeth and around the gum line. 

Plaque bacteria can lead to an infection of the gums called gingivitis, or early gum disease. The gums become red, sore and inflamed, and may bleed when brushing. If left untreated, plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) spread below the gum line and cause advanced gum disease, known as periodontitis. At this stage, the ligaments and bones that hold your teeth in place start to break down, and your teeth can become loose or even fall out. 

Plaque bacteria are also responsible for tooth decay and cavities. They produce a strong acid that leaches the minerals from your tooth enamel, causing it to weaken and break down over time. As with gum disease, this can eventually lead to lost teeth. 

In addition to tooth decay and gum disease, poor dental hygiene can cause problems like tooth sensitivity, infection, and bad breath. 

Health Effects of Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral care can have effects that go far beyond the mouth. Your gums, also known as your gingiva, have the most significant influence on your overall health, and gum disease is associated with a number of systemic health conditions. We dive deeper into those areas of concern below:

Heart disease. The bacteria from gum disease can enter your bloodstream and deposit plaques on the walls of your arteries. Known as atherosclerosis, this condition causes narrowed arteries, restricts blood flow, and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Plaque bacteria are also linked to endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart (endocardium).

Dementia. Gingivitis bacteria can travel to the brain and cause inflammation and destruction of the neurons (brain cells). This may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.  

Respiratory infections. Inhaling bacteria from infected teeth and gums over a long period could lead to infections in the lungs, as well as pneumonia.

Diabetic complications. People with diabetes are at increased risk of periodontal disease. In turn, Periodontal disease can make your blood sugar difficult to control and make your diabetes worse. It's a vicious cycle.

Rheumatoid arthritis. The more tooth loss due to gum disease, the higher the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

Establish Good Hygiene Habits to Protect Your Oral Health

There is good news amid all of this disease: it can easily be avoided or affected by your everyday oral hygiene decisions. These four healthy habits can help keep your mouth and your body in tip-top condition:

1. Proper dental hygiene

Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, and floss and use antibacterial mouthwash every day – no exceptions! If you’re already having issues with your gum health, choose a toothpaste designed to fight gum disease.  

2. Dental check-ups

Get in to see your dentist at least twice a year. They can give you a high-powered cleaning, help keep your gums healthy, and answer any oral health questions you may have.

3. Change your toothbrush regularly. 

Old, worn toothbrushes don’t clean as effectively, and they can harbor bacteria. It’s a good idea to buy a new toothbrush every three months, or sooner if the bristles are starting to look worn. 

4. Eat teeth-cleaning foods. 

Crunchy fruits and veggies are not only packed with health-promoting nutrients, they also help to scrub plaque from your teeth as you chew. They stimulate saliva flow, too, which helps to wash away plaque, bacteria and food debris, and neutralizes harmful acids. 

Every part of the body is interconnected, so poor health in one part can mean poor health in others, too. A healthy oral hygiene routine will do wonders for your teeth, mouth, and smile from a dental perspective, and that should keep the rest of your body happy as well!

Frequently Asked Questions About Oral Hygiene

What are the signs of poor oral hygiene?

Early signs of poor oral hygiene might include bad breath, sore gums, and visible plaque on the teeth. Long-term, poor dental hygiene might show up in signs like: 

  • Stained or discolored teeth. 
  • Visible tartar (hardened plaque). 
  • Sensitive teeth. 
  • Bleeding gums. 
  • Loose or shifting teeth. 

What is the most common oral hygiene problem?

Tooth decay and gum disease are the most common oral hygiene problems.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay