A lot has changed in the field of dentistry since I began practicing in 1979.

Back then, when you went to a dentist and you had yellow teeth, the dentist would tell you to wear a brown tie. Now you can get them whitened and made to look pretty much however you want them to look. We all want better smiles, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But a few years ago, I took a course that blew me away. It connected the dots between what happens in the mouth and what happens in the rest of the body. I saw how so many systemic issues have their origins in the mouth, and how oral health can be the key to overall wellness.

That information caused me to shift my focus in dentistry. At Lifetime Dental in Tavares, Florida, we still do the cosmetic work and everything else you’d expect. But we have our priorities. No. 1 is health, No. 2 is function, and No. 3 is the aesthetics.

So why is the health of your mouth so important? I like to phase it like this: if the factory up the river is polluting the river and you get your drinking water from that river, even if the water tastes good, should you be concerned?

Of course! Our bodies may not have rivers, but we do have a stream: the bloodstream. Whatever happens in one area of that stream gets carried throughout the whole body. So, if you’ve got an infected foot or hand or arm or mouth, that infection doesn’t stay there. Those nasty byproducts go into your bloodstream and mess with other parts of your body.

That helps explain why, according to one study, 50 percent of heart attacks are triggered by long-term dental infections, and a Surgeon General report from 2000 says you can’t have a healthy body with an unhealthy mouth.

If you’re wondering why you might not have heard this before, don’t worry, because I had that same question! There’s a sort of gap between physicians and dentists. Dentists focus on the mouth, while physicians focus on the rest of the body, with not a lot of overlap. That means there’s not enough communication between us, and what winds up happening is we get so focused on treating the symptoms that we don’t always figure out the cause.

My goal with this blog and the accompanying podcast is to close that deadly gap and let the entire world know how your mouth can hold the key to your overall health. I’ll share stories about patients who struggled with health problems for years before learning they were caused by an infection in their mouth. I’ll also offer advice on how to clean that “filthy mouth” of yours.

By the way, that’s the name of the podcast, this blog and website – Your Filthy Mouth. Remember, even if you have white teeth and a beautiful smile, they could be hiding an infection that could lead to some serious health problems down the road.

This is a serious topic but we try to tackle it in a way that’s fun and interesting. And be sure to drop us a line or use the button on this page to leave a voice message.

Until next week …

Charles “Dr. Chuck” Reinertsen, DMD, has been practicing dentistry in Central Florida since 1979 and is author of the book, “The Power of a Really Great Smile.” His passion is spreading the word about how the health of your mouth is intrinsically linked to the rest of your body. Learn more at www.filthymouthpodcast.com.