The mouth is where your body meets the outside world up close. It’s where we eat, speak and at least partly where we breathe.

So nature gives us elaborate defenses there. Some of those defenses are tough, like the enamel on the surface of the teeth. And some are delicate, like the margins between the teeth and gums. None of those defenses do well without some care and maintenance.

When your dental defenses are down, an unhealthy mouth can set off immune reactions that are associated with big problems like heart and coronary artery disease, even cancer.

So when we visit the dentist only for a toothache, we shortchange our whole health.

By getting regular checkups and allowing the dentist to “have a look around” with any dental treatment, people save time and money in the long run.

The best time to solve a problem is before it comes up, and it’s as true in dental health as in anything else. Maybe more so.

There’s a two-way street between appearance and health too, so there’s nothing superficial about working toward and maintaining the best-looking teeth you can have.

Whiter, straighter teeth, healthy gums and ready smile are good investments in your health and outlook.

It’s a good idea then to make sure the dentist you select is qualified in a wide range of procedures and techniques, from composite fillings to caps and crowns and bridges, to laser periodontal treatment, to cosmetic dentistry, to neuromuscular dentistry that relaxes the neck and jaw and eliminates many headaches.

Even oral cancer screening can be part of your dental checkup.

Advanced, recent and ongoing training are a good sign your dentist won’t overlook something that is good for you. There’s no substitute for comprehensive ability.

Stephen W. Durham, DMD, MAGD practices at Durham Dental at Town Center in Beaufort.