Tooth and gum disease can have effects that go far beyond discolored teeth, discomfort or bad breath. Extensive research has shown that the bacteria that flourish in an unhealthy mouth can harm the rest of the body, leading to heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illness. This is such a significant issue that, in 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began calling for public health initiatives to address oral health as a step toward addressing these potentially life-threatening systemic diseases: conditions that affect multiple organs and body systems [sources: CDC, CDA].
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and more than 25 million Americans have diabetes, so if periodontal disease -- disease of the teeth, gums and mouth -- contribute to these systemic diseases, then a tool that helps improve oral health can play a major role in improving public health. Flossing only takes a few minutes every day, and adds little to the cost of toothpaste, toothbrushes and mouthwash. It's a small, simple step that can have huge implications for your long-term health [sources: CDC, American Diabetes Association]