Prevention is what helps us have good oral health vs. poor oral health. And prevention is all about understanding your risk factors and protective factors. This is true if you are a child or an adult.
In this Oral Health Matters blog, I try to get my readers to think about the risk factors—the things in your life which contribute to poor oral health. There are protective factors too and I’ll talk about them in another blog post. Right now, however, I’ll highlight some common risk areas. I hope you will read through them thoughtfully. If you say ‘yes’ to any of them, it is time to make an appointment with your dentist.
- Not brushing and flossing your teeth every day – to remove food and bacteria. Making this part of your daily routine is a small change that pays big benefits.
- Irregular visits to the dentist. I encourage visiting your dentist at least once a year. Why? Your dentist can detect early signs of trouble and help you get on track.
- Have you had a cavity within the last 3 years? Have you lost teeth because of tooth decay or gum disease? Do you have puffy or bleeding gums, receding (shrinking) gums, or areas of the gum line where the root surface of the tooth is exposed? This could mean there may be active gum disease in your mouth. Your dental professional will want to watch you closely for this.
- How is your health? Are you pregnant? Have you been diagnosed with diabetes? Do you use/abuse tobacco (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing) or drugs? Do you regularly take prescription/over-the counter-medicines? Do you have braces or partial dentures? Are you undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy? Do you have an eating disorder? Do you have dry mouth? Each of these conditions puts you at higher risk for tooth decay or gum disease. Your oral health professional will help you make adjustments to keep your mouth healthy.
- Are you a between-meal-snacker? Do you have a fondness for sugary foods? Do you drink a lot of soda or energy drinks? The sugars and acids in these foods/drinks can encourage tooth decay—especially if you let them linger in your mouth for hours. Again, your oral health professional can help you understand how to lower your risk of oral disease with things as simple as rinsing your mouth with water after eating to keep your teeth healthy.
I would like to see Americans get smarter about the role of oral health in their overall health. That’s why I write this blog. When consumers have the knowledge to prevent problems and know when to seek care, they will likely be healthier. That’s why it is upsetting to me that oral health was missing from the National Prevention Council’s action plan.
I’d like to hear what you have to say on the importance of prevention. What does prevention mean to you?