We all know that dentists have been warning about gum disease for years. The telltale swollen and bleeding gums have adorned many medical posters and elementary schoolbooks. Students for generations have been advised to brush and floss regularly.

At the end of each lesson was a warning picture of a gap-toothed, rotten smile. It turns out that terrible choppers are only the beginning of the problem. If you’ve been taking tooth decay lightly, there are some things to consider.

Two quick reasons to visit your local dental office:

Bacterial infections

Poor oral health can lead to bacterial infections in the mouth. Bacteria, like all micro-organisms, always has the potential to spread through the environment. Researchers have been following connections between oral bacterial infections and other health problems.

Several studies have linked the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis with both gum disease and cognitive decline. An article in Medical News Today mentions ongoing research to define exactly how the bacteria may work on the brain.

Theories include producing a dangerous toxin and triggering an injurious immune response. Either way, regular dental cleanings are one way to prevent bacteria from spreading.

Inflammation

Another common ailment that researchers are only beginning to understand is inflammation. As part of the body’s immune system, inflammation is a healthy response to injury or infections. However, chronic inflammation can also be a problem.

In the case of mouth health, the swelling of the gums can trigger inflammation in other areas. Inflammation is currently being studied as a potential cause of both heart disease and lung cancer.

Again, proper dental care is a major deterrent of gum disease. Neglecting dental health today could mean serious health problems later.  Make sure to brush, floss, and use mouthwash every day.