I seem to notice many more television commercials for dental care products and services, and most of them follow a theme. In the past most advertisements were for toothpaste aimed at preventing cavities. Now they seem to focus on whitening, stain removal, and straightening, and promotions for dentures and dental implants. There is a series of ads for dental clinics that promise “not to rob you” featuring skits portraying people afraid that dentists will demand huge amounts of money for dental care.
I think these ads reflect myths about dental care that many of us believe and unfortunately base our dental care behavior on. We need to dispel these myths with some truths about oral health, which includes our teeth and mouth.
These myths include
- Care of our teeth is mainly a cosmetic concern, affecting our appearance only.
- Dental care is a luxury, nice but optional, not a necessity, it can be ignored.
- Dental care is expensive and out of reach without insurance or a high income.
- Tooth disease and loss is inevitable, so we might as well just accept it.
- Dental care is low priority, behind food, housing, and medical care in importance.
But the truth, based on recommendations from experts in oral and dental care, tells us differently.
- Care of our teeth is functional- we need a healthy mouth for eating, drinking, breathing, and talking. Our mouths also help us interact with other people emotionally- frowning, smiling, kissing, singing.
- Oral care is a basic component of health care, vitally important to overall health. I’ll say more about this later.
- Dental care can be affordable; it’s probably more costly if neglected.
- Loss or disease of teeth and other mouth disorders are preventable and treatable.
- Dental and oral care is vital to overall good health, and ultimately can be cost effective.
The teeth and oral cavity, the “window to general health”
The oral cavity, or simply called the mouth ,includes the teeth and gums, as well as the lips, the tongue, the palate (roof of the mouth), and the mucosa (sides of the mouth).
Why dental care improves our overall health.
Over 100 diseases and at least 500 medications can affect our teeth and mouths. Regular dental care can monitor for these effects and prevent them from progressing into tooth disease.
Our mouths contain over 500 species of bacteria and other organisms, some of which are protective and some destructive to our teeth. Good oral care can keep these in proper balance to prevent tooth and gum disease.
People with poor dental health have a higher incidence of heart attacks and stroke. Experts have not determined if this is direct cause and effect or coincidence, but believe it may be due to increased atherosclerosis (hardened arteries from cholesterol) due to the chronic inflammation of gingivitis.
Bacteria from the mouth can lead to pneumonia in susceptible persons, like those with emphysema or those hospitalized with critical illnesses or injuries.
Diabetes, when the blood sugar is not controlled, negatively impacts periodontal health, and periodontitis makes glucose control more difficult. Periodontitis is inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth.
Poor oral health during pregnancy increases the risk for miscarriage, low birth weight, preeclampsia, and stillbirth.
Resources for understanding different types of dental and oral disease.
Paying for dental care
Dental care should not be a luxury, and can be within financial reach with some research into available options. These sites can help you discover what you may quality for.
The importance of dental care for children
Health teeth in adults ideally starts with dental care in childhood. Jenny Silverstone, blogger at Mom Loves Best, has created this infographic about caring for children’s teeth. I suggest you also read her in depth article about helping children have healthy teeth.
Don’t neglect adult dental care
Continuing good mouth and tooth care as an adult can help you avoid tooth loss, painful gums, or other problems. If you have any problems with your teeth or concerns about your mouth, see your doctor or dentist right away.
Here are some helpful things you can do:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss your teeth at least once a day.
- Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
- Ask your doctor if your medicines have side effects that might damage your teeth.
- Look inside your mouth regularly for sores that don’t heal, irritated gums, or other changes.
- See your dentist every 6 months for regular check-ups and cleanings.
Using a power toothbrush may keep your teeth healthier, especially if you have any difficulty using a manual brush.I use an Oral-B Rechargeable Toothbrush by Braun.
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