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Tufts Public Health » Dental Health, Halloween, Oral Health » Brush Up on the Importance of Oral Health

Brush Up on the Importance of Oral Health

 

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Halloween is around the corner, and it can be hard to say no to the abundance of candy corn and pumpkin sweets that are taking over the shelves. If you have decided to relax on your diet a little, make sure that you are at least taking precautions against cavities! While you’re at it, take a few minutes to learn about the importance of maintaining oral hygiene and health.

Oral health is not always a main focus in public health, but there are plenty of reasons why public health officials should pay attention to this field.

Oral bacteria and inflammation from periodontitis (severe form of gum disease) have been shown to cause health problems in other parts of the body. Bacteria from the mouth can spread through the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas of the heart, leading to endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart). There has even been research that suggests a link between inflammation and infections caused by oral bacteria, heart disease, clogged arteries or strokes. Additionally, periodontitis may cause premature birth and low birth weight. Gum disease may also make it more difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels.

Conversely, certain diseases may cause problems with oral health. Patients with HIV/AIDS can develop painful mucosal lesions. Those with mental health problems can get periodontitis as their bodies produce increased amounts of the hormone cortisol. In elderly patients with osteoporosis, the jawbone can become less dense and cause tooth loss.

Problems with oral health can also be early signifiers of health problems elsewhere in the body. If patients present with symptoms like consistently bad breath, inflamed/bleeding gums, and a sore or painful jaw, dentists can recognize these as possible signs of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or kidney disease. Dental x-rays may also show the first stages of bone loss well before patients notice problems.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to avoid diseases caused by poor oral health care and to use the links between oral health and general health to your advantage:

Prevent gum disease, excess bacteria, and oral cancer:
• Brush and floss your teeth correctly and regularly. Brush with fluoridated toothpaste for two to three minutes, twice a day. Make sure to brush your gums in addition to your teeth. Also be sure to floss daily in order to remove plaque from the places that you can’t reach with your toothbrush.
• Eat foods that are rich in essential nutrients like Vitamins A and C.
• Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
• Limit your alcohol intake.

Be proactive in oral health care:
• Schedule regular appointments with your dentist for cleanings and check-ups. In addition to helping you find cavities and get a nice, clean mouth, these appointments can be opportunities for your dentist to detect possible health problems.
• If you notice strange pains, sores, swelling or excessive bleeding, do not wait until your next cleaning or check-up. It is always better to find problems earlier rather than later.

To learn more about oral health, visit the Mayo Clinic’s website.

Filed under: Dental Health, Halloween, Oral Health

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