Just in time for Halloween, celebrate October with Dental Hygiene Month! Many people do not know that dental hygiene can affect the total health of the body, not just the mouth and teeth. Experts have linked poor oral health to a multitude of serious adverse health factors including strokes, heart disease, diabetes, bacterial pneumonia, and even miscarriages.

How can your teeth affect your health? Well, the bacteria that form in your mouth when proper care is not taken can enter your bloodstream where it travels to your heart vessels. From there, the bacteria can attach themselves to the fatty deposits that naturally occur in the human heart. Once there, they can replicate and attack the heart itself. Proper brushing and flossing go a long way towards preventing these conditions within the body.

Periodontal disease in diabetics is especially concerning because diabetics are more prone to infection. When the gums are infected, they can’t control blood sugar levels as well. In fact, recent research suggests that infections can actually raise the blood sugar level in someone with diabetes.

Here are some interesting facts about dental health and things to avoid to maintain proper oral care.

Consuming sugar is one of the biggest causes of tooth decay which the erosion of your tooth enamel, the hard outer layer of your teeth. This can be a problem for anyone including small children and older adults. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and when you eat sugar the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attach the tooth enamel. The stickiness of plaque keeps the acids in contact with your teeth and over time can break down the enamel. This is when cavities form.

Using tobacco products is another terrible habit to get into. The chemicals that are naturally present in tobacco play havoc with the circulation in the mouth and are another one of the leading factors in periodontal disease. When the blood flow in the gums is impaired, it decreases the body’s ability to fight infection and to heal itself.

When a person drinks alcohol, it naturally dehydrates the mouth. Those suffering from dry mouth are inherently prone to tooth decay because the saliva that is supposed to be present in the mouth acts to wash away any food debris or bacteria that may be present. Alcohol is also infamous for containing vast amounts of sugar. As previously stated, sugar forms lactic acid and is a huge contributor to tooth decay.

According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 50% of all Americans are in some stage of periodontal disease. The numbers go up even further when talking about the senior population, to an astonishing 70%.

Luckily, periodontal disease is, for the most part, entirely avoidable. While genetics may be a factor in some cases, it almost exclusively boils down to proper oral hygiene. This includes brushing the teeth on a regular basis (most dental professionals say this should be done at least twice a day, but preferably after every meal), flossing the teeth at least once daily to avoid having food decomposing in one’s mouth, and keeping the mouth moist to maintain sufficient saliva levels.

It is curious that Dental Hygiene Month falls in October, which is most famous for Halloween when it is traditional for young children to trick or treat and satisfy their sweet tooth by gorging on candy. However, even in these cases, oral hygiene may be practiced by simply brushing the teeth after eating sweet treats. This way, the youngsters can still enjoy the holiday and not fall into poor habits that they may carry with them for a lifetime. Even dentists enjoy a piece of candy now and again.