Your smile is often the first thing others notice, and teeth are without doubt its most defining characteristic. We often don’t give our teeth enough credit, spending most our time wishing they were whiter or straighter without realizing they can be indicative of more than how much coffe or tea we drink. Here are some basic and bizarre personal insights that you can find out from a quick flash of those pearly whites.

Who You Are

Anyone who’s ever watched a crime drama knows that the moment our favorite detective finds an unidentified body, the first thing they do is contact CSI for dental records. While I’m not sure how much Law and Order SVU is relevant to real-life police investigations, the use of dental records in body identification is accurate. Teeth are like fingerprints and no person’s layout is quite the same. Forensic dentists can identify an individual using their dental mapping with as little as a handful of teeth left on a jawbone. Teeth can tell others a whole lot more about an individual aside from their name.

For example, your teeth can tell a forensic dentist: your age, your gender, your ancestral background, if you played a certain instrument, your dietary habits, and if you were a heavy smoker or not. They can even give insight into what you did for a living. The coolest part is that teeth can last a seriously long time if kept in the right conditions, so chances are long after you’ve passed and any records of you have been stockpiled away, your teeth will remain as a lasting reminder of who you once were.

Your Bone Health

Teeth, although part of your skeletal system, are not considered bones. Still, their health can sometimes be reflective of the health of your bones, and unlike bones, they can be observed without any painful or gruesome procedure. Perhaps the most obvious bone that can be indicative of your health is your jawbone. Often, erosion of the jawbone can manifest in tooth loss or pain.

However, teeth are not limited at representing the jawbone’s state. Unfortunately, jawbone damage is often linked to damage of other bones and early tooth loss is considered a sign of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes the bones to become weak and brittle. The disease, although found to affect all types of people, is significantly more common in white and Asian women who are past menopause. Thankfully, the condition is treatable when caught early. 

Your Mental Health

Teeth are one of the few body parts that actually give insight into an individual’s personality. Researchers have found that tooth grinding is more often than not associated with certain characteristics. For example, those who grind their teeth tend to be more aggressive, competitive, and above all, anxious. In fact, it has been found that 70 percent of all teeth grinders do so because of underlying stress or anxiety.

Another mental health condition that can be first spotted in oral health includes eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, up to 83 percent of all bulimic patients show signs of tooth erosion caused by a combination of habitual regurgitation of stomach acid and extensive bushing or rinsing of the mouth. Vitamin deficits caused by anorexia can also affect teeth. Signs and symptoms of dental complications caused by eating disorders include erosive lesions of the surface of the teeth, changes in overall appearance of teeth, and increased sensitive.

Your Risk of Developing Dementia

Tooth loss before the age of 35 is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although it “remains to be proven” whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in already healthy people, P. gingivalis, a microbe found in the gums, has been linked to the death in a number of Alzheimer’s patients.

“It is also likely that these bacteria could make the existing disease condition worse," Professor St. John Crean, of the University Central Lancashire, School of Medicine and Dentistry, told the Daily Mail. Although the study’s findings remain inconclusive, researchers hope that one day they will be able to compare the brains of those with dementia and those with intact memory against relevant dental records to definitely find whether or not there is a link between oral hygiene and dementia in healthy people.