When it comes to overall well-being, good oral health has a bigger impact than you may think. In fact, maintaining a healthy mouth is probably one of the most important contributors to looking good, feeling better and living longer.

Fact is, unhealthy teeth and gums have a direct effect on virtually every other part of your body.  Any infections that develop in the mouth can enter the bloodstream, reaching throughout your system.

Oral infections are known to cause or complicate more serious conditions like diabetes, cancer, strokes and heart attacks, pneumonia and arthritis. Even a simple cavity can have a negative effect on your health.

Probably the most prevalent oral infection is periodontitis, or gum disease. More than 75% of all Americans have some form of the disease. Fortunately, treatment is available. If addressed in its mildest form with a deep cleaning and daily home care, gum disease can be reduced to a minimum. Even at later stages, gum disease can still be brought under control with more rigorous, but effective, treatments.

Here are five key dental health actions you can take to prolong a healthy life:

  1. Visit the dentist! It may sound silly to suggest that a trip to the dentist will extend your life. But by having regular check-ups and cleanings every six months, you’ll keep any problems in check and prevent more serious issues.
  2. Brush and floss on a regular basis. Brush after meals, or at least twice a day. And floss at least once a day. That keeps plaque from forming and bacteria from growing.
  3. Try to maintain a healthy diet. The occasional candy bar or juicy hamburger can be irresistible, so it’s important to include a healthy dose of fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and other healthy foods in your diet. They’ll not only improve overall health, but they’ll help keep cavities to a minimum.
  4. Take your vitamins. That’s what mom always used to say, and it’s good advice. Vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, K2, calcium and magnesium are critical to healthy bone growth, which is key to a good support structure for your teeth and body.
  5. Take any oral infections seriously. If your dentist diagnoses gum disease, for example, there are proven methods to treat it. Beyond an in-office treatment like scaling and root planing, your dentist may prescribe a home maintenance program like Perio Daily Defense that will help get the problem under control or reverse it entirely.

When you understand the reality of the mouth-body connection, maintaining healthy teeth and gums will become a top priority.