If you’re like most people, the odds are good that your idea of a healthy lifestyle begins and ends with making sure you eat lots of fruit and vegetables, and get exercise as much as you can.
And while both of these factors are crucially important in keeping you fit and healthy, the reality is that your oral health, that is how good a state your teeth and gums are in, has a major effect on your overall health.
Gum disease, for instance, has been linked to a raft of ailments including pneumonia, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and exacerbated diabetes symptoms.
It’s why brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily and seeing your dentist on a regular basis are so important.
But that’s not where the story ends.
Smoking, drinking, prescribed and non-prescribed medications, illicit drug use, tongue and lip piercing, and stress, all have a significant effect on how healthy your teeth and gums are, and hence, how healthy you are overall.
Nothing in your body happens in a vacuum and everything you do to your body will inevitably have an effect on your oral health and, sooner or later, on your health overall.
But this is just the aesthetic tip of the smoking iceberg.
Smoking has also been linked to a decrease of blood flow to the teeth and gums, bone shrinkage, teeth loss, and an inhibiting of the production of the right kind of saliva, a serious problem given how crucial a role it plays in protecting your teeth from decay.
By far the most dramatic effect of prolonged tobacco use however is oral cancer, which is 9 times likely to occur in smokers than non-smokers.
If you also drink a lot of alcohol, then you’re risk of developing cancer of mouth, throat, tongue, lips and salivary glands is even further increased.
The sugar and acidity of alcohol are major contributors to teeth erosion, as is the acid reflux which accompanies vomiting, an all too common consequence of a night of heavy drinking.
Compounding the damage is the fact that many people stumble home and go straight to sleep after a big night out, only brushing their teeth the next morning, leaving their mouth unprotected from erosion and decay all night.
Alcohol also dehydrates you, which affects how much saliva your mouth produces, and hence, how much protection your teeth are given.
Drinking lots of water both when you’re out partying, and the next day when you’re recovering is one way to remedy the effects of excessive alcohol consumption, as is limiting the amount of soft drinks you consume.
But using drugs, which come with a host of physical and behavioural effects, can lead to tooth grinding, dry mouth (lack of saliva), gum disease and rapid tooth decay.
Their use is also often accompanied by binge eating all sorts of unhealthy foods, particularly ones high in sugar, the corrosive effects of which are made even worse by the accompanying neglect of basic personal and oral hygiene.
But if that involves tongue and oral piercings then you run a real risk that what you gain in kudos from the fashion police, you lose in poor oral health.
Oral piercings, by virtue of the fact that they have ruptured your mouth’s protective layer of skin, let a lot of bacteria in, leading to swelling and infection, which can affect the body far beyond your mouth.
Plus all that hard metal constantly banging against your teeth can crack your teeth, or at the very least, lead to excessive wear and tear and more pronounced problems later on.
The problem is that too much stress can lead to all kinds of problems with your mouth, teeth and gums.
You can end up with mouth ulcers and cold sores, grinding and clenching of teeth which you may not even notice taking place, and at worst, temporomandibular disorders (TMJD), a painful condition affecting the hinge that connects your jaw to your skull.
Stress can also lead you to neglect even the most basic of habits such as healthy eating and brushing and flossing your teeth.