Brushing our teeth twice a day. Flossing. Seeing the dentist on the regular. Most of us maintain good dental habits to maintain our pearly whites — and to avoid common oral health issues, like bad breath and cavities. But what if there were other good reasons to listen to your dentist about flossing regularly? Recent studies seem to indicate that what’s going on inside of our mouths is directly linked to what’s going on inside of the rest of our bodies. CHECK UP: Why going to the dentist isn’t optional While most of us begrudgingly visit the dentist (at least) twice a year, here’s a good motivator to keep going: There’s more to it than cleaning, polishing and that optional fluoride treatment. When your dental team peers inside the farthest corners of your mouth, they not only have insight into the status of your oral health — but of other possible health concerns too. If, during your check-up, it becomes clear that you aren’t prioritizing the health of your teeth, your dental team may be the first to warn you about the possibility of developing certain (seemingly unrelated) diseases. CHECK IN: Look inside your mouth to understand your overall health In recent years, medical experts have discovered that there’s a link between certain oral health issues and serious medical conditions. While more research needs to be done, the medical community seems to be in agreement when it comes to the following: • Left untreated, periodontal disease can worsen arthritis pain. • Gum disease can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. • There’s an increased risk of developing a respiratory illness if we are breathing in bacteria from tooth plaque. • If that same bacteria enters the bloodstream, it can “invade” our heart and blood vessel tissues, eventually leading to heart disease What’s going on inside our mouths is sometimes quite telling. Symptoms for serious conditions, like diabetes or AIDS, often present via the mouth first. “As many as 90% of systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms.” (Source: Grove Dental Associates) CHECK ON: Dental health impacts mental health too An unhealthy mouth can most definitely impact mental health, especially considering western society places a lot of emphasis on having perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth. For people dealing with oral health issues that negatively impact the look of their teeth, it is not uncommon to experience low self-esteem, anxiety or depression. And while many of us like to joke about our fear of the dentist, for some it is a very real condition called dentophobia. Severe cases can mean avoiding the dentist altogether and developing oral health issues as a result — a vicious cycle that can lead to both physical and mental health issues. If you have friends or family who fear the dentist, you may want to consider checking in on them to make sure their fear doesn’t spiral out of control. So there you have it. Your overall health depends on your oral health. So take good care of those pearly whites, and don’t forget to show them off — it’s World Smile Day, after all!