Parents of young children familiar with the morning and nighttime ritual of getting kids to brush their teeth often deal with children’s resistance to the routine. However, moms and dads can take comfort in knowing that their enforcement of proper childhood dental care can have a positive and lasting effect on kids’ overall health.

Dental care and heart disease. Harvard Health Publishing says numerous studies show that people with poor oral health exhibit higher rates of cardiovascular issues, including heart attack and stroke. While this remains something of a medical mystery, some theorize that bacteria that infects gums causing gingivitis and periodontitis trigger an immune response, inflammation, that contributes to vascular damage.

Dental care and Alzheimer’s disease. The National Institute on Aging reports that a recent analysis published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease noted bacteria that cause gum disease is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease. That analysis found that older adults with periodontitis, a condition marked by inflammation of tissue around the teeth that can cause loosening of the teeth, were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. While more research is needed, dental care that protects the gums could very well reduce individuals’ risk for dementia.

Dental care and cancer risk. Cancer is among the leading causes of death across the globe, affecting people from all walks of life. Researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health discovered a link between dental care and cancer risk. Researchers found that people with a history of gum disease have a higher risk of stomach and esophageal cancers than people with no such history.

Emphasizing lifelong oral hygiene in childhood could pay lasting dividends, potentially reducing kids’ risk for various diseases when they reach adulthood.