What does brushing and flossing have to do with the rest of your body? Your mouth is the gateway to your body -- and it's not a very pristine gateway. It's filled with bacteria -- in fact, there are more bacteria living in your mouth than there are people on earth. (2) Most of these bacteria are harmless, and good oral care plus the body's immune system can keep the bad bacteria in check. But if you neglect oral health -- or if your immune system is weakened -- harmful bacteria can multiply. In just one day they can colonize every surface of your mouth and form a sticky substance called plaque on the surfaces of your teeth. Over time, acids in the plaque can cause cavities and gum disease. But the bacteria in your mouth can do damage elsewhere, too.
If you have gum disease or cuts in your gums from dental work, oral bacteria can enter your bloodstream and cause infection in your heart or lungs. Oral bacteria may also attach to fatty buildup in your arteries, increasing the chances of stroke or heart attack. Some research suggests that if your mouth is chronically inflamed due to severe gum disease, inflammation may cause swelling elsewhere in your body, including your arteries. It may also contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. Poor oral health probably won't give you heart disease or other diseases. But if you already have risk factors for certain diseases, it can increase your chances of getting them