How Does Poor Oral Health Affect Our General Health?

The effects of Poor oral health on our general health are diverse and can be serious

In Australia, Dental disease is surprisingly common. Tooth decay affects 9 in 10 people. (1) On the other hand, gum disease affects 1 in 2 adults 30y+. (2)

We may know about the immediate effects, but their effect on our general health is more sinister.

Inside our mouths are good and bad bacteria. When we have poor oral health. The bad bacteria can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Bad bacteria can enter our bloodstream through decayed teeth or bleeding gums. In our blood, they can seriously affect our general health.

Furthermore, poor oral health can also impact our ability to eat, appearance, breath, nutrition, mental health and overall quality of life. See the effects below:

Tooth Decay

If Sugar, fermentable carbohydrates (eg bread and rice) are left on the tooth and unable to be cleaned with a toothbrush, a hole will form. This hole will get bigger and eventually get into the nerve/ bloodstream. This will cause a tooth infection, toothache, possibly fever, swellings and may be potentially life-threatening.

Thankfully, tooth decay can be managed with routine fillings when detected at regular dental checkups. They can also be prevented through diet and oral hygiene at home.

Gum Disease: The Silent Killer

Gum disease is when there is a build-up of hard material on the teeth, similar to barnacles on a ship.

Over time the build-up goes beneath the gum. It causes the gum and bone to be lost. When there is little bone supporting the teeth, they become loose and fall out.

The gum also gets red, swollen and bleeds. The bleeding gums are a gateway for bacteria and their toxins to enter the bloodstream, they can spread around the body and cause serious problems.

There is strong evidence that active Gum disease will worsen diabetes, increase the risk of heart disease, pneumonia, and infective endocarditis (potentially lethal heart infection) in susceptible patients.

There is also evidence that having gum disease increases the risk of stroke, dementia, premature birth, low birth weight babies and some cancers. (3)

Thankfully gum disease can be treated with excellent oral hygiene at home and regular deep cleans at the dentist.

Other Effects of Poor Oral Health

Missing teeth and inability to eat many chewy, fibrous foods. This can lead to lower nutritional intake and malnutrition affecting overall health. (4)

Another effect of poor oral health is bad breath. This is most often caused by food debris/ build up on the teeth and tongue. The bad breath may cause self-esteem issues, social, employment and relationship problems. When teeth are missing, discoloured or damaged, they may not look as good. In society today, our appearance and smile are important to get a job, find a partner, for self-esteem. (5)

We believe our oral health is critical for not just our teeth, but the general health of our body and mind. Look after your teeth with excellent oral hygiene, diet and routine checkups at your dentist to keep smiling inside and out.


  4. R. Zelig, L. Byham-Gray, S.R. Singer, E.R. Hoskin, A. Fleisch Marcus, G. Verdino, D.R. Radler, R. Touger-Decker. Dentition and Malnutrition Risk in Community Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Aging Research and Clinical Practice, 2018; 7: 107-114 DOI: 10.14283/jarcp.2018.19
  5. Shah RJ, Diwan FJ, Diwan MJ, Chauhan VJ, Agrawal HS, Patel GC. A study of the emotional effects of tooth loss in an edentulous Gujarati population and its association with depression. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. 2015;15(3):237-243. doi:10.4103/0972-4052.161564