brush teeth manDon’t forget to brush! Brushing helps eliminate the filmy mix of bacteria and the stuff it makes called plaque. Left alone, it petrifies into tartar, a welcoming home to microscopic food particles and bacteria that feed on them.

And this is where the real trouble begins. Your gums can become swollen and tender, with a bit of bleeding when you brush. Left untreated, you can develop an infection in your gums that spreads into your bloodstream. This is no small problem. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reports that people with severe gum disease are four times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those with clean gums.

Unchecked bacteria in your mouth can also be inhaled into your lungs, triggering respiratory infections.

Help prevent these nasty outcomes by brushing two minutes morning and night. Floss daily. Schedule regular cleanings to remove plaque you can’t reach. And see your dentist right away if you spot any signs of gum problems.