\tOral health is often overlooked — and right now, fewer and fewer people may be going to the dentist. \tOral health is connected to your overall health. \tThese are the 12 things you should know about your oral health and the dentist. As a child, most other kids I knew hated heading to the dentist. I was the odd-one-out, as I looked forward to my dental appointments and the possibility of getting a new pink toothbrush. That love for the dentist remained into adulthood — but that is hardly the case for everyone. According to a recent survey from DentaVox of 18,000 participants worldwide, 60 percent said they suffer from dental fear or anxiety. Some call the lack of oral health care among people a silent epidemic — people just aren’t going to the dentist as much anymore. Do you know what’s worse? Recent research has even indicated possible associations with chronic oral infections and diabetes, heart and lung disease, low birth weight, stroke and more. However you feel about the dentist, it’s important to care about and take care of your oral health. It doesn’t have to be scary — if you start taking care of it. If you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile, here are 12 things you should know about your oral health.1. You might be brushing your teeth too aggressively While you may think you’re doing a great job brushing your teeth, every time you press down too hard, it’s actually hurting your teeth and gums. When you brush your teeth too hard over a long period of time, it can lead to receding gums and even wearing away your enamel. Ease up — you’re still doing a great cleaning job.2. Your teeth are a good indicator of your physical health If you have chronic health problems, chances are, the evidence remains with your teeth. This is why it’s so important to take regular trips to the dentist before things get out of hand. For example, research has shown that diabetics are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease. Whether you have an illness or not, it’s important to stay on top of your dental check-ups.3. Certain medications can change your oral health Did you know that certain medications can actually change your oral health? Some medications can contribute to gum overgrowth, oral ulcers, dry mouth and more. If you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile and you’re noticing odd changes, check with your dentist, and doctor on possible side effects.4. You might be using the wrong toothpaste Toothpaste is toothpaste, right? Not exactly. There is a right and wrong toothpaste for everyone. For example if you have sensitive teeth, it might be better to opt for a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. Pay attention to how your toothpaste makes your mouth feel — if it burns or feels abrasive, you could be allergic. If you’re looking for a new option, try these: our favorite toothpaste and the eco-friendly toothpaste tablets.5. If your gums are bleeding, there is a problem Do your gums bleed often? That’s a sign of a problem. Even if there is no pain present, bleeding gums could be an indicator of chronic gingivitis, inflammation of the gum tissue, or other underlying problems. Luckily, this is something you can get ahead of with active oral health care and regular trips to the dentist.6. Hormones can influence the health of your gums It’s true: hormones can impact your health in all areas. Yes, even your oral health. For women, having hormonal fluctuations can influence the health of gums and oral tissue. Stay on top of your dental appointments and if you’re experiencing unusual symptoms, head in sooner, rather than later.7. Just showing up counts With the way most people feel about going to the dentist, those in the profession aren’t here to make the experience of taking care of your oral health a bad one. In fact, many just want to see you happy, healthy and smiling.8. Don’t floss out of guilt At some point or another, you make a dental appointment, only to realize you haven’t flossed in weeks or even months. A few days before, you cram in as much flossing as you can. A word to the wise: don’t do that. Dentists can tell when you haven’t been flossing, and in actuality, you can hurt your gums by aggressively flossing. Instead, take it as a sign to create a new habit for yourself.9. Children need to see the dentist Even if you aren’t fond of the dentist, oral health for your children is also important. Yes, even for babies. Tooth decay can start early, so get ahead of things, and start their experience off on a good note.10. You don’t need to whiten your teeth White teeth aren’t a sign of healthy teeth. In fact, someone could have a pearly white smile and have underlying oral health problems they aren’t even aware of. Don’t feel pressured to whiten your teeth, but rather, focus on the actual health of your teeth and gums. This will go a long ways for overall health.11. Your heart health and oral health are linked According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease. Other studies have shown links between gum disease and heart disease. If you care about your heart health overall, you must include oral health, too.12. It’s never too late Regardless of how you’ve treated oral health in the past, it’s never too late to step up your game, and start fresh. Your dentist wants the best for you, your smile and your health and happiness, overall.