One of the things I obsess about is my teeth - keeping them clean and tidy, so I don't have to worry when I visit the dentist.
But it seems like most Americans don't share my concern for their pearly whites: one in ten adults admit they forget to brush their teeth regularly, and less than a quarter regularly floss.
If I just described your dental hygiene habits, consider this a warning.
As the American Dental Association says, “the mouth is a gateway to your body’s overall health.” If you don't look after your teeth, you could develop one of these nasty conditions:
For years, doctors warned patients with diabetes that they were more likely to develop gum disease. Now, they say the reverse is probably also true.
As bacteria builds on your teeth, it can cause inflammation in your body that contributes to pre-diabetes, making it harder for your body to process insulin.
The good news is research also shows that brushing and flossing is an easy way to lower your diabetes risk.
2. Heart Disease
Researchers are still digging into the connection between this condition and your oral health, but the early evidence is worrying.
Like diabetes, the inflammation in your body caused by gum disease is thought to increase your risk of heart disease. We're still learning, but we know enough to recommend you keep flossing, for your heart's sake.
3. Gum Disease
No surprise here, but just like your dentist warns, not brushing and flossing will make your gums sick.
If you're seeing "pink in the sink," or blood when you brush your teeth, you may already have the early stage of gingivitis. When you develop the more serious periodontitis, your teeth are at risk of falling out.
It could happen to you: 10% of Americans have no teeth left by the time they reach their 50s and 60s.
4. Erectile Dysfunction
Bad brushing habits on their own don't cause trouble... down there, but gum disease does.
More research is needed, but rates of gum disease in patients with ED are as much as 30% higher than patients without the disease. Just one more reason men with shiny, white teeth are more popular.
An 18-year study of a retirement community in Laguna Hills, California identified a link between oral hygiene and mental health.
Patients who did not brush their teeth every day were up to 65% more likely to develop dementia than regular brushers. A similar study also linked patients with Alzheimer's to gum disease.
What's not clear is whether the bacteria buildup in their mouths or their generally unhealthy habits are to blame.
Stomach ulcers are caused by the bacteria Heliobacter pylori, which loves to stick to your teeth when you don't brush regularly.
As plaque builds on your teeth, so does the Heliobacter. This bug can also cause stomach cancer, so brush it off before it can do any damage.