In these uncertain economic times, it is not unusual for many patients to postpone their regular preventive care. Often viewed as unimportant if there are no obvious problems and "nothing hurts," the routine dental checkup and cleaning are put on hold in the interest of saving some money.

Unfortunately, nothing can be further from the truth. To begin with, the checkup examination can often help you avoid or detect a dental problem early before it becomes painful both physically and financially. Regular dental care helps ensure healthy teeth and gums, which in turn strengthen a healthy oral immune system.

Good oral health is essential to maintaining total body health as research continues to emerge showing a strong correlation between dental disease and many systemic problems ranging from Alzheimer's disease to pancreatic cancer. If you are a pregnant woman, you have a seven times higher chance of having a pre-term baby. You also have up to a ten times greater chance of heart attack or stroke, and a seven times higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Basically, gum disease is a major source of chronic low-grade inflammation which can have ravaging effects on many body organ systems.

Several recent studies, including one completed with 145,000 patients at Columbia University's dental school, went even one step further. They found that maintaining or restoring good oral health actually reduced total health care costs up to 21 percent for the management of patients with various systemic diseases. A study performed in Japan concluded virtually the same. The actual potential health care cost savings could easily be in the trillions of dollars if this is considered on a large population scale.

So if you've considered putting off your last checkup, think again. There's a lot to be said about being "penny wise and dollar foolish." Now is the time to be more preventive and proactive about your health as a healthy smile is also healthy for your wallet.

Dr. Gerald P. Curatola is a renowned aesthetic dentist and pioneer in the emerging field of rejuvenation dentistry, which improves patients' overall health and appearance by integrating total wellness with cutting edge oral care and restorative procedures. In addition to his private practice, research, and work as a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, he is an internationally sought after speaker, author and expert who has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. For more information, go to DrGerry.net