Skimping on dental care now could damage your overall health

Man brushing his teeth
You have decided to turn over a new leaf, from now on you're going to eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and have quality time for you. Yes, this is the year you're going to make yourself over into a glowing picture of health.

It is a noble goal and one we can all do if we approach it sensibly. But are you forgetting anything? What about including these simple tools in your plan; a toothbrush, some dental floss, and regular dental appointments.

SEE: Oral hygiene 'dos and don'ts' explained by experts

Huh? Well, of course, you brush your teeth regularly, don't you? And you do floss when you think of it. And gee, you see the dentist once a year or so, isn't that enough? Who's got time to worry about teeth with all the busyness in our daily lives? And of course, dental appointments are expensive!
What if I told you that skimping on dental care now could damage your overall health - AND cost you a lot more time and money later on? According to one study, researchers found they could predict a persons' vulnerability to heart disease by looking at their oral health. The presence of disorders such as cavities, missing teeth, or diseased gums is as effective in predicting a patient's risk for heart troubles as blood tests or cholesterol levels.

Researchers are finding more and more links between oral health, (or lack of it) and other health problems. Most notable is the link between gum disease (periodontitis) and heart disease of various kinds. The bacteria and resulting inflammation responsible for diseased gums may, by traveling through the bloodstream, contribute to a build-up of cardiovascular plaques or blood clots in the coronary arteries, thus increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. Other chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease are increasingly being associated with periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has now been called a complication of diabetes. However, what comes first, diabetes or the gum disease we are still not sure.

When you consider the potential cost of these major problems, not the least of which could be a loss of life, proper dental care looks like a really good investment. Many dentist and periodontitis recommend twice yearly exams and check-ups, along with daily self-care including brushing and flossing. Be sure to consult with your dentist or hygienist to decide an optimum schedule for your personal needs.

What about the positive effects of good oral hygiene on your health? Here's one result you can see immediately - your smile! We all know how a bright smile can make one feel happier and more confident, but did you know that smiling can actually lower your blood pressure as it releases endorphins - those natural, feel-good molecules that relieve pain and increase our sense of well-being?

With good dental care your teeth can stay clean and strong and your gums healthy for many years - and many more smiles- to come!
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