From the Mouths of Babes

February is/was National Children’s Dental Health Month. We’ve seen some preschoolers and kindergarteners in HCLS walking around with materials from school promoting the importance of taking care of one’s choppers.  But honestly, couldn’t we all use a little refresher?  And, as Dr. Damian Blum, DMD discussed at the East Columbia Branch last month, dental health can affect overall health.

The Mayo Clinic reports that harmful bacteria can sometimes grow out of control and cause oral infections; some dental procedures and medications can disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your mouth and may make it easier for bacteria to enter your bloodstream. They also report that “your oral health may affect, be affected by or contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:

  • Endocarditis—gum disease and dental procedures that cut your gums may allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream…. [which] can cause infection in other parts of the body—such as an infection of the inner lining of the heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease—some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke may be linked to oral bacteria, possibly due to…a severe form of gum disease.
  • Pregnancy and birth—gum disease has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Diabetes–reduces the body’s resistance to infection—putting the gums at risk. In addition…[diabetics] may develop more-frequent and severe infections of the gums and the bone that holds teeth in place, and they may lose more teeth….
  • HIV/AIDS—oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
  • Osteoporosis—may be associated with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
  • Alzheimer’s disease–tooth loss before age 35 may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Other conditions—may be linked to oral health include Sjogren’s syndrome—an immune system disorder—and eating disorders.

That’s some pretty scary stuff. So it doesn’t hurt for all of us to take a step back and think about our oral healthcare, much like our little ones have been encouraged to do all February. Let’s review some pointers that all kids and adults should remember about maintaining good dental health. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Institute, here are the most basic steps, from MedlinePlus, to a healthy mouth and teeth:

  • Brush your teeth every day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Clean between your teeth every day with floss or another type of between-the-teeth cleaner
  • Snack smart – limit sugary snacks
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco
  • See your dentist or oral health professional regularly

See, the steps are not really a big deal, and you don’t have to go alone. Did you know HCLS has books to help encourage/teach about oral healthcare, and databases(http://www.hclibrary.org/index.php?page=497#health) that can help you locate a doctor or dentist and evaluations of area practitioners?

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