If a picture says a 1000 words, imagine how many words your smile says about you during a first impression. For many parents, oral health easily falls to the wayside when considering the numerous other responsibilities associated with child rearing. For many adults, the dentist office is only a necessary venture if a mouth-centric problem is detected. However, regardless of age, oral hygiene is an important aspect of a person’s overall health, extending far beyond the dentist’s chair.
Poor dental hygiene is directly linked to various health problems in both children and adults. Tooth decay and gum disease are considered the major risks to an individual maintaining their natural teeth throughout their lives. The risk of each condition increases with age for a host of reasons, including problems with saliva production or challenges flossing and/or brushing one’s teeth due to physical limitations.1
Today, even with the vast medical advances in dental care,1 more than one in four adults in the U.S. alone live with untreated tooth decay.2 Nearly half of all adults aged thirty and older show signs of gum disease. Approximately nine percent of adults have what are considered severe cases of this oral disease.3 Other issues may include low self-esteem due to the poor condition of one’s teeth or, specifically for children, early childhood caries (ECC).4
ECC, or cavities, is one of the most common diseases in children nationwide and can lead to pain or discomfort for the child, difficulty chewing, poor growth or weight gain caused by not eating, and even infection.3 According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)’s “A Pediatric Guide to Children’s Oral Health”, by age three the average child has twenty primary teeth (also known as ‘baby teeth’). 5 These teeth typically begin to fall out to make room for permanent teeth between the ages of five to seven. However, disease can spread more quickly in the baby teeth if not properly taken care of or treated.
Regular check-ups for your teeth can help detect other health issues before they occur in your mouth or detect problems in other parts of your body. Taking simple steps, such as drinking fluoridated water or visiting the dentist regularly, make a difference.6 Also, being cognizant of any sudden changes in your mouth or teeth, such as changes in taste or smell, and seeking professional medical help is crucial to either detecting or preventing a problem.6
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Adult Oral Health. July 13, 2016. Retrieved September 09, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/adult-oral-health/index.html
- Dye BA, Thornton-Evans G, Xianfen L, Iafolla TJ. Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in Adults in the United States, 2011-2012. NCHS Data Brief, no 197. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2015.
- Eke PI, Dye, BA, Wei L, et. al. Update on prevalence of periodontitis in adults in the United States: NHANES 2009 to 2012. J of Periodontology. 2015;86(5):611-622.
- PACT Educational Materials: Caries [PowerPoint Slides]. (n.d.). American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved September 09, 2017, from http://www2.aap.org/ORALHEALTH/pact/index-materials.cfm
- American Academy of Pediatrics. A Pediatric Guide to Children’s Oral Health. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Oral Health Tips. July 13, 2016. Retrieved September 11, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/adult-oral-health/tips.html