5 Ways Poor Dental Care Makes You Sick

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It May Affect Your Breathing

Gum disease may increase your risk of getting respiratory infections, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia, according to the Journal of Periodontology. The infections might be caused when bacteria from the mouth are inhaled into your lungs, possibly causing your airways to become inflamed.

It Might Make it Harder to Have a Baby

Women of childbearing age with gum disease took an average of just over seven months to become pregnant – two months longer than the average of five months that it took women without gum disease to conceive, discovered researchers in Western Australia. Other research finds that pregnant women with gum disease might have higher odds of miscarriage.

Expert Teeth-Cleaning Tips

How can you tell if you're hitting the mark when it comes to good oral care?

"Generally, your teeth and gums should not bleed, be painful, or feel rough or sharp to your tongue," says Pam Atherton, RDH, a dental hygienist for Dr. John Carlile, DDS in Skaneateles, NY. "Your breath should be fresh for at least a couple of hours after brushing in the morning and after having eaten breakfast."

One of the easiest ways to prevent gum disease is to clean your teeth properly, so try these tricks for a healthier mouth.

Rinse Your Mouth

If you use mouthwash twice a day, you'll slash your risk of gum disease by 60 percent, says Marjorie Jeffcoat, DMD, Professor of Periodontology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia. Ideally you should aim to rinse for about 30 seconds with a mouthwash that has microbial protection to fight plaque and gingivitis, such as Listerine®.

Floss First

You should floss before you brush your teeth, rather than after, says Jeffcoat. "That way you'll be able to brush away any food that was stuck between your teeth to prevent bacteria from growing." If you find dental floss hard to hold onto, Atherton suggests trying floss picks, such as Plackers® dental flossers, instead.

Get the Right Toothbrush

Soft or extra soft bristles are best. "Gum tissue can't make a callous; therefore, when a person uses a medium or hard-bristled toothbrush, it literally scratches the tissue away over time, exposes the root surface underneath and leads to possible bone loss," says Atherton.

Brush Smart

To really clean your teeth, aim to brush them for a full two minutes. "Make sure you brush both your tongue and cheeks as well as the chewing surfaces to improve the removal of harmful bacteria in the crevices," says Atherton. To get your kids to brush the full two minutes, sing "Happy Birthday To You" or the "Alphabet Song" twice through at a normal speed for each half of your mouth. And be sure to replace your toothbrush about every three months.

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More from Prevention:

Foods for Healthy Teeth

6 Painless Teeth Cleaning Tips for Your Pet

10 Habits for Bright, White Teeth

Banish Bad Breath

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