As someone who has had to have more work than I like to admit done on her teeth, I can tell you how important oral care is. First, there are no second chances with your teeth, once they are gone, they are gone for good. Second, there is no second chance to make a first impression and the condition of our teeth and the scent of our breath are a major part of most first impressions. However, oral hygiene affects more than just the prettiness of our smile and the sweetness of our breath. Oral cancer, mouth pain, gum disease, bacterial endocarditis (inflammation of the heart and heart valves), and digestive disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, can all start from poor oral health.
The health of your mouth tends to be representative of the rest of the body as well. Ninety percent of all systemic diseases, such as diabetes, leukemia, cancer, heart disease and kidney disease, have symptoms that affect the mouth, meaning that your dentist may be able to diagnose a disorder before your primary care physician.
So what is good oral hygiene? The first step is to have regular (every 6 months) cleanings and check-ups with your dentist. They can tell you if you are getting all the areas of your mouth when you brush and floss at home. The cleaning at a dentist's office is also a much deeper cleaning than one can achieve with just a brush, floss, and mouthwash. They can also get up under the gumline to clean out any plaque that has accumulated there. Also, I said earlier, dentists can check your mouth for symptoms of other diseases in the body. In addition to the dental cleanings/check-ups, you should be caring for your teeth every day at home. This is done by brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing once a day. Colgate has an illustration that shows the proper way to brush and floss your teeth. A good antiseptic mouthwash, like Listerine, can also help to kill any remaining bacteria. There are also fluoride mouthwashes available to help strengthen tooth enamel. Eating a healthy diet also helps keep your mouth healthy. You should also avoid snacks and sugary foods and drinks. If you do consume something sugary (few of us manage to avoid sugar all together), drink or rinse your mouth with water soon after to get the sugar off your teeth.
Good oral hygiene allows us to eat comfortably, have a nicer smile, not offend others with bad breath, and prevent other diseases from affecting our body. Taking a few minutes each day to brush and floss properly is a small price (literally and figuratively) to pay compared to the high cost (finacially and health-wise) of not caring for our mouths.