It's a new year… You've 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's a noble goal, and one we can all achieve 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.It might surprise you hear 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 person's vulnerability to heart disease just by looking at their oral health. The presence of disorders such as cavities, missing teeth or diseased gums was 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 travelling through the bloodstream, contribute to 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 and also diabetes and Alzheimer's disease are increasingly being associated with periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has now been called a major complication of diabetes however the jury is still out on what comes first—the diabetes or the gum disease.When you consider the potential cost of these major problems, not the least of which could be loss of life, proper dental care looks like a mighty good investment. Many dentists and periodontists recommend twice-yearly check-ups and full-mouth cleans, along with daily self-care including brushing and interdental cleaning. Be sure to consult with your dentist or hygienist to determine an optimum schedule for you."But I clean my teeth well enough that I don't need a dentist cleaning…"Daily removal of the furry plaque layer is very important and is the key to controlling disease and build-up in the mouth. However, over some months, the calcium that is present in our saliva will gradually harden this plaque layer to become calculus or tarter. Once this hard layer begins to form it cannot be removed with a toothbrush and needs to be cleared with scaling instruments by your hygienist. This hard build-up sits along your gumline and constantly irritates your gums until it is removed. The longer your gums are irritated, the more gum disease will progress. As well, the mouth is a strange place in that generally, most dental problems don't cause any pain - until it's too late! So even though you may not "feel" like there are any troubles in your mouth worth checking, it is important for your dentist to routinely examine your mouth for developing problems. This way we can intervene early to reverse the disease or at least provide minimal treatment—which is better for both your health and your wallet!And what about the positive effects of good oral hygiene on your health?Here's one result you can see immediately—your smile! Aside from the confidence you get from a bright smile, did you know that smiling can actually lower the blood pressure, while releasing 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!