Why Is Oral Health Important?
Did you know that your oral health is essential to your overall health? Good oral health of your mouth and surrounding skull and face structures improves your ability to:
- make facial expressions to show feelings and emotions.
Even though the oral health of Americans has improved significantly over the past 50 years, due mostly to effective prevention and treatment efforts, oral diseases still cause pain and disability for many.
What You Can Do to Maintain Good Oral Health
Good self-care is key to good oral health. You can help keep your mouth healthy by following these tips:
- Drink fluoridated water and use a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride’s protection against tooth decay works at all ages.
- Take care of your teeth and gums. Thorough tooth brushing and flossing to reduce dental plaque can prevent gingivitis—the mildest form of gum disease.
Avoid tobacco. In addition to the general health risks posed by tobacco, smokers have 4 times the risk of developing gum disease compared to non-smokers. Tobacco use in any form—cigarette, pipes, and smokeless (spit) tobacco—increases the risk fo:r
- gum disease
- oral and throat cancers
- oral fungal infection – known as “candidiasi.”
Spit tobacco containing sugar increases the risk of tooth decay. Additional information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/publications/CDNR/.
- Limit alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol is also a risk factor for oral and throat cancers. When used alone, alcohol and tobacco are risk factors for oral cancers, but when used in combination the effects of alcohol and tobacco are even greater.
- Eat wisely. Adults should avoid snacks full of sugars and starches. Limit the number of snacks eaten throughout the day. The recommended five-a-day helping of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables stimulates salivary flow to aid remineralization of tooth surfaces with early stages of tooth decay.
- Visit the dentist regularly. Check-ups can detect early signs of oral health problems and can lead to treatments that will prevent further damage, and in some cases, reverse the problem.
- Professional tooth cleaning – also called “prophylaxis” – also is important for preventing oral problems, especially when self-care is difficult.
- If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to maintain control of your disease. This will help prevent the complications of diabetes, including an increased risk of gum disease.
If medications produce a dry mouth, ask your doctor if there are other drugs that can be substituted. If dry mouth cannot be avoided:
- drink plenty of water
- chew sugarless gum
- avoid tobacco and alcohol.
- Have an oral health check-up before beginning cancer treatment. Radiation to the head or neck and/or chemotherapy may cause problems for your teeth and gums. Treating existing oral health problems before cancer therapy may help prevent or limit oral complications or tissue damage.
You Can Prevent Most Oral Diseases.
By practicing good oral care, you may be able to avoid some of the common oral problems:
- tooth decay – also called “dental caries”
- oral, mouth, and throat – or “pharyngeal” – cancers.
Oral Health (HealthyPeople.gov)
Oral Health for Adults (CDC)
US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General. Oral health in America: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; 2000, p. 33-59.
US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General. Oral health in America: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; 2000, p. 155-88.
US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A national call to action to promote oral health, Rockville (MD): National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; May 2003, p. 1 -53. (NIH Publication; no. 03-5303).
Dye BA, Tan S, Smith V, et al. Trends in oral health status: United States, 1988–1994 and 1999–2004, Vital Health Stat. 2007 Apr;11(248):1-92.
US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Oral health: Preventing cavities, gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancers: At a glance 2010 [Internet]. Atlanta: CDC; c2010 [cited 2010 March 8]. Available from:http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/doh.htm#aag
US Government Accountability Office (GAO). Medicaid: Extent of dental disease in children has not decreased and millions are estimated to have untreated tooth decay. 2008 Sep. 46 p. (GAO-08-1211).
For more information:
Go to the Dental and Oral Health (Adults) health topic.