Hygiene is a risk factor for periodontal disease and other bacterial and inflammatory conditions. Hygiene in general refers to the practices used to ensure good health and cleanliness. Poor personal hygiene leads to inflammatory skin conditions and other bacterial infections. Oral hygiene refers to individual habits and professional methods used to control the bacterial biofilm (dental plaque) that grows on tooth surfaces. If not removed regularly, dental plaque can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease. Toothbrushing as a daily routine is the most important method of plaque control.
Early assimilation of good oral hygiene into general hygiene practices promotes better overall oral health and general health. Oral hygiene practices should be included in guidelines for personal hygiene taught in schools and in the guidelines used for the care of the chronically ill, those with special needs and older people in residential care.
Risk of bacterial pneumonia in older people in residential care has been associated with poor oral hygiene. A systematic review of randomised controlled trials and other clinical studies estimated that one in ten cases of death from pneumonia among older people in a nursing home may be prevented by improving oral hygiene.
Epidemiological studies confirm an association between poor oral hygiene (periodontal disease) and higher risk levels of cardiovascular disease and low grade inflammation, though the nature of the association is not yet understood.