"Crook body, crook mouth - and crook mouth, crook body."
That's the caution from a leading dentist based in the region, after new figures revealed the number hospitalisations due to dental-related conditions.
It's costing hundreds of bed days every year, Michael Jonas said, but there were simple steps to take to avoid this situation.
"People have to learn to take oral health seriously," Dr Jonas said.
"There's this disconnect between the mouth and the rest of the body."
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) figures on potentially preventable hospitalisations (PPH) for 2017-2018 show people spent 4542 days in Hunter New England hospitals due to dental conditions.
That's up a reported 50 per cent since 2001.
In the New England, the situation was worst in the Tamworth-Gunnedah area, at 316 bed days and an average stay of 1.2 days per admission.
In the Moree-Narrabri area, PPH from dental-related conditions led to 156 hospital bed days, at an average stay of 1.5 days.
In Armidale, it was 141 bed days and an average of 1.2 days; in Inverell-Tenterfield, it was 126 bed days and an average stay of 1.3 days.
Dr Jonas, who is also the Australian Dental Association NSW vice-president, said "we've got to put the mouth back into health".
He acknowledged there were "always barriers" to people accessing dental care.
"There are financial barriers, the access to dental care, the inability of government to provide adequate services - which is a real issue for them, and I don't know how you get around that problem," he said.
However, he said, "it goes back to the message we've been sending out for decades now".
"Brush and floss, check what you eat and get a dental check-up every six to 12 months," Dr Jonas said.
"It's the sugar issue that seems to be creating more and more problems ... It's kind of like 'booby-trapped' foods - we buy so many things [that] have so much sugar hidden away.
"You've got to read the label and be acutely aware."