We all know brushing, flossing, and regular visits to the dentist are essential for maintaining a great set of teeth. But, do you really understand the real impact of forgoing proper oral care? Several recent studies have revealed that, not only can oral bacteria impact the health of your teeth and gums, it can affect your entire body.

“Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease caused by the more than 500 bacterial species found in plaque below the gum line,” says Joan Otomo-Corgel, president of the American Academy of Periodontology and associate clinical professor in the department of periodontics at University of California–Los Angeles.

This disease, which includes gingivitis, can cause swelling in the gums, irritation, and bleeding. It’s one of the most prevalent conditions in the world, impacting more than 743 million people. In fact, in the US alone, it affects one in every two adults and is 2.5 times more common than diabetes.

As this common condition progresses, it is also known to cause receding gums, damage to tissue and bone around the teeth, and you may even run the risk of losing teeth. But, even worse, periodontal disease is known to cause kidney damage, coronary arterial disease, peripheral arterial disease, and stroke.

In fact, in 2012 the American Heart Association released a statement recognizing the connection between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. Though, they didn’t quite confirm the connection, citing that there is a definite need for further study.

Additionally, periodontal disease is known to have an impact on children born to mothers with the condition. There are endless studies linking periodontal disease to pre-term or low-birth-weight babies. Poor periodontal control has been found to lead to this and other issues, such as pregnancy, gingivitis, and diabetes,” says Sam Shamardi, a dentist at the Boston Center for Oral Health and clinical instructor in the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s division of periodontology.

So, what’s the bottom line? It’s just as important to maintain your oral health as it is to care for your whole body. You may not realize it, but the condition of your teeth and gums has a direct impact on the health of your entire body.