We’ve all heard of the 99 percent, but what about the 80 percent? 80 percent of the US adult population has some form of periodontal disease. [1] Periodontal disease, which is defined as an inflammation of the tissues supporting the teeth, can be easily prevented or managed through performing good oral health habits.

Although our dental care may seem like a less integral aspect of our physical health, the truth is quite the opposite. Our mouths are at the center of our lives, allowing us to eat, drink and speak. Although our mouths are essential for living fulfilling lives, our care for our oral health often falls behind other elements on our master checklist.

Not only is it important to participate in preventive oral health so that the normal functions of our mouth are not disturbed, it is also important to brush twice a day, floss, and visit the dentist regularly to prevent other health complications such as heart disease and stroke.

Heart disease and stroke? That’s right, oral health is indeed tied to the health of the rest of the body. People with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease. [2] Bacteria and plaque build up in our mouths can cause build-up in our blood as well, contributing to clot formation and inflammation of arteries.

We can take care of our oral health by brushing our teeth twice a day, and flossing regularly. Visiting a dentist frequently is essential for preventing infections, and other costly complications. Eating a balanced diet is important for maintaining good oral health just as it is for the rest of our body. Monitoring sugar intake and staying away from sugary drinks, such as sodas reduces the risk of cavities and leads to healthier teeth.

Although these things may seem less important than getting in your daily amount of physical activity, a few minutes brushing and flossing each day will go a long way. An investment in your oral health not only guarantees a brighter smile, but an overall healthier you. So start giving your mouth the attention it deserves.

[1] American Dental Association, 211 East Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

[2] American Academy of Periodontology. 737 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60611

Kay Monks

Kay is a senior at American University in Washington, D.C, where she is enrolled in the Health Promotion Education program. Kay has been an intern with AdvancingWellness since early 2011.