The other day, I found out a friend of mine only brushes his teeth once a day. I was shocked. How could this good-looking, intelligent, charming guy only brush his teeth once a day?! Had he not heard the twice-a-day thing that I’d been hearing (and obeying) my entire life?

When you Google “brush teeth once a day,” over 5 million results come up, so apparently, it’s quite a common issue. But even if you brush your teeth twice a day, are you flossing? And even if you’re brushing twice a day and flossing, are you doing a good enough job to avoid being one of the 64.7 million American adults who has some form of gum disease?

No matter what your oral health situation is, we can always be improving! Here’s some motivation for you: if you don’t take care of your teeth, they will fall out one day; your oral health (or lack thereof) is tied to your overall health, and oral health can promote self-confidence.

If you don’t take care of your teeth, they won’t take care of you

A recent survey found that 3.75 percent of adults aged 20 to 64 have no remaining teeth. How did these unfortunate few lose all of their pearly whites? By not caring for them! Let’s review what plaque and gingivitis are so we know what’s going on when we neglect our teeth.

Plaque is “a coating of bacterial film that feeds on the residual sugars left in your mouth. It produces acids that eat away tooth enamel and cause cavities.” Cavities cause toothaches, increased sensitivity, and even visible holes in your teeth as the decay increases.

Plaque can also cause gingivitis, a non-destructive type of periodontal disease, that can turn into periodontitis if left untreated. Periodontitis is more serious and can eventually lead to loss of teeth. When plaque lingers on the teeth and gums, it “triggers an immune response, which, in turn, can eventually lead to the destruction of gingival, or gum, tissue,” said Christine Frank, DDS.

As we as a society have gotten better at caring for our teeth, “both partial and total tooth loss in adults has decreased.” Help that number continue to decrease–take care of your teeth so they’ll stick around for you!

Your oral health is tied to your overall health

Do you floss your teeth? If your answer is no, you may have shaved a year off of your life expectancy!

Recent research is finding that periodontal disease is linked to chronic inflammatory diseases like diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and even cancer. A study by Diabetologia found that “those with diabetes and gum disease were three times more likely to die from heart and kidney diseases than diabetic people without gum disease.”

While the cause-and-effect relationship isn’t certain, one 2013 study concluded that “treating periodontal disease may decrease the proinflammatory state. . . . It may also decrease the oral discomfort and improve nutritional status.” Sounds worth it to us!

Having a healthy mouth improves confidence

Remember that Colgate floss ad campaign? Colgate photoshopped pictures of couples–one picture had an extra arm in it, another had a six-fingered woman, and another had a man with an ear missing. But in each picture, one of the smiling people had something stuck in their teeth, and that was what you noticed, not the other strange things going on.

A recent survey found that “teeth are second only to weight when it comes to things people feel insecure about.” And it makes sense when we consider our reaction to the Colgate campaign. People notice when something is less-than-perfect with our teeth. Whether it’s because of bad breath, stained or crooked teeth, or constant pain, an unhealthy mouth can degrade confidence and even focus.

“Your teeth shouldn’t be the source of your confidence,” said Nate Anderson, DDS. “But having great oral health can contribute to self-confidence significantly because it affects so many aspects of our lives.”

It really does. Our mouths (and any pain we’re experiencing there) affect eating, concentrating, relaxing, talking, and socializing, to name a few things. Having a healthy mouth promotes a better quality of life, which helps us go forward with confidence as we pursue our goals.

As you take care of your teeth, your overall health will improve, and you’ll be more confident! If you’re neglecting to brush twice a day or floss once a day, make small goals to create a habit of doing so. You will thank yourself when you look in the mirror and see your beautiful, confident smile shining back at you.