Surprising myths and truths about dental care

Why people neglect dental care and why they should not

I notice more  television commercials for dental care products and services, and most of them follow a theme. In the past most advertisements were for toothpaste for preventing cavities. Now they focus on whitening, stain removal, straightening, 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.

woman dentist with a patient

Myths about dental care

I think these ads reflect  myths about dental care that many of us believe and unfortunately base our 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.
Surprising myths and truths abut

Truths about dental care  

But the truth, based on recommendations from experts in oral and dental health, 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.
Family of 4 sitting at a dining table.
Our mouth- eating, talking, smiling-connects us with our family and friends.

Our 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).

diagram of the mouth from the National Cancer Institute
The underside of the tongue and nearby structures (lip, tongue, salivary glands, and floor of the mouth) are identified. Alan Hoofring (Illustrator) public domain

 


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.

Gum Disease-Also called: Periodontal disease

Tooth disorders

Oral Cancer from the American Dental Association

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.

When You Don’t Have Dental Insurance

Free/Low-Cost/Sliding Scale Dental Clinics

 

 

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. 

How to care for your child's 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.

a doctor looking into a patient's mouth
Michael Munger, M.D., examines a patient at his medical office in Overland Park, Kan. courtesy American Academy of Family Physicians

 

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. 

(source: familydoctor.org)

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.

(This is an affiliate link. )

Oral B Rechargeable Toothbrush

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And please follow Watercress Words for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH.

Thank you for  viewing  the advertisements and using the affiliate links  that fund this blog; with your  help, we can grow, reach more people, and support worthy causes that bring health and wholeness to people around the world.

Dr. Aletha  , sharing the HEART of health 

stethoscope with a heart

6 tips to cope during a flu epidemic

To many people “the flu” is any respiratory illness characterized by some combination of fever, cough, congestion, headache, fatigue, and body aches. But it more correctly refers to influenza

  1. If you think you have “the flu”, you probably don’t. (This season may be an exception.) 

Another doctor posted on Twitter , “If you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck, but you haven’t , then you have the flu.”

To many people “the flu” is any respiratory illness characterized by some combination of fever, cough, congestion, headache, fatigue,  and body aches. That term has become so nonspecific even we doctors use it that way. But it more correctly refers to influenza, which is  one of many viruses that cause illness. The illnesses caused by the other viruses are usually called “colds”, upper respiratory infections, aka URIs, bronchitis, pharyngitis, sinusitis and pneumonia.

I recommend this resource  from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to understand

influenza symptoms 

emergency warning symptoms that warrant an emergency room visit 

influenza complications 

The human respiratory system
The respiratory tract including the nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, trachea, bronchi in blue and the lungs (pink). Infections can involve the breathing organs from the nose all the way down to the lungs. (photo complimentary from Pixabay)
  1. If your doctor thinks you have “the flu”, you probably do.

Prior to the availability of the “rapid flu” test, we doctors diagnosed influenza by the characteristic symptoms, confirmatory findings on exam, and knowing there was an outbreak in the community. The test is not absolutely necessary but is helpful for confirmation in the event the illness doesn’t progress as expected.

3. The best way to prevent influenza is by vaccination.

The World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) , the National Foundation for Infectious Disease and every other reputable medical organization recommends vaccination against influenza.

My family and I always get vaccinations which have successfully protected us without side effects or adverse reactions. There are risks, just like there are with any medical procedure, or lots of other things we do in life. In this case we have decided the benefit outweighs the risk.

  1. If you want to avoid getting influenza, avoid being around people who may be infected.

This means everyone, since one may be contagious 2 to 3 days before symptoms. It’s not a coincidence that influenza outbreaks coincide with the American holiday season (approximately November through January). So to protect us all,

  • Stay home if you are sick, and ask your family, co-workers and employees to do the same.
  • If you absolutely must go out among other people, put a mask over your nose and mouth.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Wash frequently touched surfaces frequently.
Hand hygiene saves lives.
a common sight now in public restrooms
  1. If you do get sick, don’t ask your doctor for an antibiotic.It will not help. 

    Antibiotics attack bacteria. Influenza and 99% of all respiratory illnesses are due to viruses.

Tamiflu

The antiviral drug Tamiflu, generic oseltamivir,  will “shorten the duration and severity of symptoms” by 1-2 days, if started early (within 24-48 hours). There is some evidence that it will also lessen the risk of serious complications , especially in higher risk people (see below ).

I warn people that even with Tamiflu they will still feel miserable for a few days. But if it gets you back to school or work a day earlier, it may be worth the cost.

Oseltamivir can also be prescribed for prevention, if you know you have had close contact with someone with confirmed influenza, such as a household member. It’s only effective though for that episode, a 10 day course taken as soon as possible after exposure.

Xofluza

Xofluza, generic baloxavir, is for treatment of uncomplicated influenza for children and adults 12 years and older, who have been sick for no more than 38 hours. Patients take 2 tablets as a single dose. It is not approved to prevent influenza.

Home care of influenza

Otherwise, the treatment is“symptomatic” or “supportive” care:

  • Rest; eat and drink as normally as possible; extra fluids if running a fever 
  • Non-prescription cough/congestion /pain/fever meds

Don’t confuse Tamiflu (generic oseltamivir) a prescription anti-viral drug with Theraflu, an over the counter drug that treats symptoms.

Theraflu does not affect the course of the illness.

Here are  general guidelines  on what to do if you get a respiratory illness.

  1. You can die from influenza, but you probably won’t.

Influenza causes uncomfortable disabling symptoms but most people recover fairly quickly and fully. In some cases influenza can progress rapidly and overwhelm the respiratory and/or nervous systems,  leading to death.

People also die from complications of influenza, and infants, young children and the elderly have greatest risk.The most common fatal complication is bacterial pneumonia, infection in the lung. Influenza can also attack the nervous system causing brain inflammation (encephalitis and/or meningitis) and paralysis in the form of Guillain Barre syndrome .

an xray of healthy lungs with no signs of pneumonia.
Healthy lungs with no signs of pneumonia.

High risk persons-take influenza seriously

Persons with chronic illnesses like diabetes, lung disorders, chronic liver or kidney disease, depressed immune systems and cancer , as well as infants and persons of advanced age are at greater risk of complications and should always consult a physician if feeling ill. If you are not sure if you fall into that category, ask your doctor.

sharing the HEART of health in flu season

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

And please share this vital information-you may help safe someone’s life.

                              Dr. Aletha