Why oral hygiene is crucial to your overall health.

The inside of your mouth is the perfect place for bacteria to thrive: it’s dark, it’s warm, it’s wet and the foods and drinks you consume provide nutrients for them to eat.

But when the harmful bacteria build up around your teeth and gums, you’re at risk of developing periodontal (or gum) disease, experts say, which is an infection and inflammation in the gums and bone that surround your teeth.

And such conditions in your mouth may influence the rest of your body, said Kimberly Bray, a professor of dental hygiene at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, US.

A growing yet limited body of research, for instance, has found that periodontal disease is associated with a range of health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory infections and dementia.

Exactly how oral bacteria affect your overall health is still poorly understood, Bray said, since the existing research is limited and no studies have established cause-and-effect.

But some conditions are more associated with oral health than others, experts say. Here is what we know.

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