The Importance of Dental Care and Oral Hygiene

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Good oral hygiene is important for maintaining one's overall health. According to the Caucus Educational Corporation, poor oral health has been linked to heart and lung disease, diabetes, stroke, extremely high-birth weight, and premature births. Often, diseases give their first warning signs in the form of oral problems. The U.S. Surgeon General also agrees that oral health is a strong indicator of overall health and well-being (CDC, 2006).

There are four basic steps to maintain good oral health (Colgate):

  1. Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Floss every day. everyday
  3. Rinse with mouthwash twice a day
  4. Limit the number of times you snack.
  5. Visit the dentist regularly..................................................................

When brushing and flossing, proper technique is key. Click Here [1] for animations showing proper brushing and flossing techniques according to the American Dental Association.

Using proper products for home care is equally important. When buying any dental products, look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. The ADA seal [2] is an important symbol of any dental product's safety and effectiveness (ADA Seal, 2005).

Without consistent care, several oral health problems can result. Immediate risks include gingivitis, cavities, tooth decay, and other gum diseases which can eventually result in oral cancer. This “silent epidemic” (U.S. Surgeon General) can be avoided by regular treatment at home and dental visits twice each year.

Here are some simple lifestyle changes that will improve oral health for you and your family:

  1. Serve as a role model for your children by practicing good oral health care habits.
  2. Check your children’s mouth for signs of gum disease such as bleeding gums, swollen gums, gums receding away from teeth, and bad breath.
  3. Eat a balanced diet including foods high in calcium, and vitamin C.
  4. Educate your children about the health risks of tobacco use. Smoking is the number one preventable risk factor for gum diseases.

Some aspects of oral health are age-specific. The following information is divided into age groups with listed tips.

Infants:

  • For mothers to be, tetracycline, a common antibiotic, can cause tooth discoloration for your baby and should not be used by nursing mothers or by expectant mothers in the last half of pregnancy.
  • Teething usually starts at around 6 months and should be brushed and flossed daily
  • Avoid baby bottle decay by not allowing your baby to fall asleep with a bottle full of juice or milk (try water or a pacifier) and make sure to wipe teeth and gums with a gentle cloth or gums after feeding
  • If your water is not fluoridated, ask your doctor about daily fluoride supplements, because fluoride is very important even before teeth start forming

Toddlers/Children:

  • As teeth begin to grow in, this may be very painful so gently rubbing gums with your finger, a frozen teething ring or a pain relief medication can help (contact your dentist or pediatrician about prescriptions)
  • Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for toddlers, but the habit may result in permanent bite issues (i.e. buck teeth or overbite) so stopping this behavior through positive reinforcement (praise for not sucking on thumb) or bitter tasting medication can help
  • Make sure to use a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing your child’s teeth
  • Regular dental appointments should begin being scheduled at age two

Teenagers:

  • Talk to your teen about the importance of oral hygiene
  • Set a good example by practicing good oral hygiene yourself
  • Keep junk foods at a low around the household, instead keep fresh fruits and vegetables around for snacking
  • Discourage oral piercings as they increase risk for oral infections and can cause injury to the entire mouth

Adults:

  • Brush twice daily
  • Floss once a day
  • Rinse twice daily
  • Watch for signs of gingivitis (gum disease) such as redness, swelling or tenderness and contact your dentist if you experience any
  • Visit the dentist twice each year for regular check-ups
  • Limit sugary foods

For all ages, you should consult with your dental care provider about using supplemental fluoride; especially if your water is not fluoridated. In areas without fluoride in the water the rate of tooth decay is much higher. For these individuals not receiving adequate fluoride daily, their dentist may recommend a fluoride varnish to be applied to the teeth. This is common in younger children to help protect their teeth from decay. A fluoride varnish is a thin plastic fluoride covering painted onto the teeth in a couple of minutes time by a dentist. This varnish then protects the teeth. It should also be noted that a fluoride varnish is not a replacement for regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups.


While practicing good oral hygiene is vital to your health, there is only so much that personal oral maintenance can do. A normal person can easily overlook conditions that could greatly complicate or even end one's life. Thus, visiting your dentist for regular checkups is vital to a healthier smile.

"Routine dental exams uncover problems that can be easily treated in the early stages, when damage is minimal" (American Dental Association [ADA], 2008). During a dental exam, dental professionals thoroughly clean and examine the teeth and mouth. Using results from the oral exam and information from dental x-rays, dentists are able to diagnose problems well before they are visible or painful. This helps to limit the amount time, money, and possible discomfort caused by dental issues. The following is a list of reasons why you should visit your dentist frequently:

1) To prevent gum disease

Gum disease, specifically gingivitis, is a leading cause of tooth decay and tooth loss. If gum disease is discovered and diagnosed early, it can be treated. However, if left untreated, gum disease can become periodontitus, a more severe and irreversible stage. This may lead to serious damage of the gum tissue and jaw bone, causing your teeth to fall out. This late stage of gum disease can also increase your risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.

(See http://video.about.com/dentistry/Gingivitis.htm for a video about the causes and effects of gingivitis.)

2) To prevent oral cancer

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, a United States citizen will die from this type of cancer every hour of every day. Of similar concern is the fact that out of the 34,000 newly diagnosed Americans every year, only half of these people will be alive in the next five years. However, while attending your regular dental checkup, your dentist and oral hygienist screen you for this specific cancer. If diagnosed early, there is a good chance that oral cancer can be treated successfully.

3) To avoid losing your teeth

Without your teeth, normal eating habits can obviously be far more difficult. Also, taking care of your natural teeth now will help you avoid paying for dentures later. As stated previously, gum disease can easily lead to adult tooth loss, but regular visits to your dentist and good oral hygiene can prevent it.

4) To prevent dental emergencies

Toothaches, a broken jaw, chipped teeth, and other dental emergencies can be easily avoided with regular dental visits. Early signs or symptoms of these unpleasant conditions can be detected and treated by your dentist. If left untreated, you may have to endure root canals or forced tooth removals- these treatments are significantly more expensive than preventetive care such as regular check-ups (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2006).

(See http://video.about.com/dentistry/Root-Canal.htm for a video about root canal procedures.)

5) To help maintain good overall health

Since gum disease is a major risk factor for heart disease, stoke, and certain forms of cancer, regular visits to your dentist can help prevent and treat this disease. By treating conditions early and learning from your dentist how to prevent oral damage, you can achieve better health and ultimately better quality years of life.

(See http://www.listerine.in/100-healthy-mouth/OralCareVideos for a video about Oral Hygiene and Dental Care.)

Below are several books with information about oral hygiene for children and families:

  1. The Intelligent Consumer's Complete Guide to Dental Health: How to Maintain Your Dental Health and Avoid Being Overcharged and Overtreated by Jay W. Friedman. Paperback. Publisher: Authorhouse
  2. The Complete Guide to Better Dental Care by Jerry F. Taintor, Mary Jane Taintor. Paperback. Checkmark Books
  3. Your Child's Dental Health: Womb to Wisdom Teeth by Vicki Audette, Joleen Jackson, McHenry Lee. Paperback. IHD Publishing
  4. Brushing Well by Helen Frost. Dental Health. Library Binding.
  5. Oral Health Education by Vickie Kimbrough, Karen Henderson. Paperback. Prentice Hall
  6. Essentials of Dental Hygiene: Clinical Skills by Mary Danusis Cooper, Lauri Wiechmann. Paperback. Publisher: Prentice Hall
  7. Healthy Teeth for Kids: A Preventive Program : Prebirth Through the Teens, Paperback, Twin Streams

Article Sources:

Listerine Dental Care http://www.listerine.in/100-healthy-mouth

Colgate World of Care http://www.colgate.com/app/Colgate/US/OC/Information/OralHealthBasics/GoodOralHygiene/OralHygieneBasics/FamilyGuideOralHealth.cvsp

Learn4Good http://www.learn4good.com/health/dental_health.htm

Caucus Educational Corporation http://www.caucusnj.org/caucusnj/special_series/oralhealth/importance.asp

U.S. Surgeon General http://www.perio.org/consumer/children.news.htm

“Top 5 Reasons to Visit the Dentist” by Tammy Davenport http://dentistry.about.com/od/dentalhealth/tp/visit_dentist.htm

The Oral Cancer Foundation http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/

The American Dental Association http://www.ada.org/

Findmydentist http://www.findmydentist.com

Colgate Family Guide to Oral Care http://www.colgate.com/app/Colgate/US/OC/Information/OralHealthBasics/GoodOralHygiene/OralHygieneBasics/FamilyGuideOralHealth.cvsp

About the ADA seal of acceptance. (2005, March 14). Retrieved February 7, 2009, from American Dental Association Web site: http://www.ada.org/ada/seal/index.asp

American Dental Association News Releases. (2008, February 4). A reminder to parents: Early dental visits essential to children's health. American Dental Association. Retrieve February 6, 2009, from http://ada.org/public/media/releases/0802_release01.asp

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2006, December). Oral Health for Adults. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Division of Oral Health. Retrieved February 6, 2009 from http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/factsheets/adult.htm

Oral health in America: Summary of the surgeon general's report. (2006, April 16). Retrieved February 7, 2009, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/Oralhealth/publications/factsheets/sgr2000_05.htm

Why are regular dental visit important? (2012). Retrieved September 2012, from dentalcare.com: http://www.dentalcare.com/en-US/dental-education/patient-education/regular-english.aspx

Dental radiographs benefits and safety. (2011, September). Retrieved September 2012, from JADA: http://www.ada.org/sections/scienceAndResearch/pdfs/forthedentalpatient_sept2011.pdf