Why Poor Oral Hygiene Affects Your Health: How to Educate Patients

poor oral hygiene

As a dentist, you know how important oral health is. But, sometimes, it can be hard to get that message across to your patients.

For particularly stubborn patients, it might not be enough to simply tell them that they should brush and floss more. You might have better luck emphasizing the effects that poor oral hygiene has on overall health.

Read on for some fast facts you can share with your patients.

Armed with information, you’ll have an easier time educating them and giving them the tools they need to take charge of their oral health once and for all.

Health Conditions Caused by Poor Oral Hygiene

The following conditions may initially not seem to have anything to do with the mouth. In reality, though, poor oral health has been linked to an increased risk of all these diseases:

Cardiovascular Disease

It’s important to understand that when the gums become inflamed because of bacteria — the same bacteria that cause gum diseases — that bacteria can easily make its way into the bloodstream.

Once bacteria reach the arteries, it can lead to plaque buildup and a condition known as atherosclerosis. This condition increases your risk of high blood pressure, strokes, and other issues.


Poor oral hygiene can also negatively affect your brain.

When your gums become inflamed as a result of infection, substances are released that can cause memory loss.

Some research even suggests that dental conditions like gingivitis can increase one’s risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Severe gum disease can lead to severe inflammation throughout the body. This systemic inflammation, in turn, can trigger autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.


Diabetics are more prone than others to gum infections and periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can also make it harder for diabetics to control their condition because it negatively affects blood sugar levels.

Pregnancy Complications

Pregnant patients especially need to make oral hygiene a priority. Any infections that a pregnant woman contracts can easily be spread to her child. Poor oral health has also been linked to premature birth and low birth weights in infants.


In some women, infertility has also been traced back to their poor oral health. This may be because poor oral health increases one’s risk of developing severe illnesses and chronic inflammation, neither of which is great for fertility.

Respiratory Infections

It’s very easy for bacteria from the mouth to make its way into the lungs. From there, this bacteria can trigger respiratory infections and illnesses like pneumonia, bronchitis, and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.


In addition to an increased risk of oral and throat cancer when you smoke or use tobacco products, unhealthy oral hygiene habits like infrequent brushing and flossing can also increase your risk of developing other types of cancer, including blood cancer, kidney cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Kidney Disease

Poor oral hygiene doesn’t just contribute to kidney cancer. It can also contribute to other chronic kidney diseases. This has to do, in part, with the fact that people who have poor oral health also tend to have weaker immune systems.

Erectile Dysfunction

Men with poor oral hygiene may be more likely to struggle with erectile dysfunction. When bacteria from the mouth gets into the bloodstream, it can inflame and block the blood vessels. This hinders blood flow to the genitals and makes it harder to achieve and/or maintain an erection.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Poor oral health can also affect your digestive tract, also known as your gut. Research shows that people with poor oral hygiene are more prone to poor gut health and conditions like leaky gut syndrome. These conditions, in turn, have been linked to other illnesses like diabetes, depression, and autoimmune diseases.

In addition to improving oral hygiene, probiotic supplements can balance out bacteria and boost overall health. This article can help you learn more about leaky gut and the benefits of probiotics.

How to Talk to Your Patients about Their Poor Oral Hygiene

As you can see, there are lots of different ways that poor oral hygiene can affect your patients’ overall health.

Talking to them about the different conditions they may be at risk for may give them the motivation they need to change their lifestyle.

However, it’s important to make sure you’re talking to them about these issues in a considerate way. If your patients feel judged or attacked, they’re not going to be inclined to take your advice, even if their health is at risk.

Listed below are some specific strategies you can use to talk to your patients in a sensitive way:

  • Avoid the three Cs: Criticism, condemnation, and complaining; neither of these are a good approach when you’re talking to someone about their poor oral health
  • Talk to them about their health goals and how proper oral hygiene can help them achieve them
  • Avoid sharing more than they need to know; you can explain the potential health risks of poor oral hygiene, but you don’t need to go super in-depth or pull up graphic images
  • Give your patients a chance to ask questions about their condition and gain clarification
  • Help them set goals and let them be involved in creating a follow-up plan for their oral health

Finally, don’t be afraid to use a little humor. Your patients will appreciate you lightening things up a big, especially since they’re likely already nervous to be in the dentist’s chair in the first place.

Looking for More Tips on Educating Your Patients?

As you can see, there are many different ways that poor oral hygiene can affect your patients’ overall health. You may have even learned some facts you didn’t know before.

Share this information with your patients so they know the potential ramifications of their bad habits.

Do you want to learn more about how you can educate your patients effectively?

Be sure to check out the marketplace blog for the latest tips and tricks.

If you’re not sure where to start, this article on treating hearing-impaired patients is a very helpful jumping off point.