February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so it’s a good time to remind everyone – adults and children alike – that your oral health is important to your overall health. Practicing good oral health habits such as daily brushing and flossing and regular dental visits are easy steps toward keeping teeth and gums healthy at every age.
Why is oral health so important?
One of the main focus areas of the Oral Health Program at the Department of Health and Welfare is preventing tooth decay in children by providing oral health prevention programs across the state. These programs include school-based dental sealant clinics and fluoride varnish programs delivered in childcare centers and public health districts. Untreated childhood dental disease can put a significant financial burden on the family, cause poor performance in school, and lead to a lifetime of poor oral health.
How much of a problem is children’s oral health in Idaho?
It’s definitely an issue – A 2014 statewide study found 62-percent of Idaho third-graders experienced tooth decay, cavities or were missing permanent teeth because of dental decay. Our goal is to reduce that rate to 49 percent or less among Idaho children aged 6-to-9 by 2020.
What about adults? Are there health consequences if grown-ups don’t take good care of their mouths?
Research also has shown a link between poor oral health and diabetes, heart and lung disease, stroke, and respiratory illness later in life. It is especially important for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant — poor oral health could be a factor in delivering a pre-term or low-birth weight baby. Pregnant women should see a dentist and practice good oral healthcare as part of their pregnancy care. They should know that parents with poor oral health can transfer cavity causing bacteria to their children.
So what are some things we can do to improve oral health?
Good oral health habits are important to start early in childhood. You can start by setting a good example for your children and teaching them how to brush and floss and having regular checkups with the dentist, starting when they are a year old. Encourage them to eat healthy foods that are low in added sugars and to avoid sugary drinks and sweet snacks. Protect their teeth with fluoride toothpaste. Talk to your dentist about dental sealants and whether they are appropriate for your child.
The good news is that tooth decay and other oral diseases are preventable. In fact, the combination of dental sealants and fluoride and good oral health habits at home has the potential to nearly eliminate tooth decay in school-aged children. If you or your children haven’t been to the dentist in a while, now is the time to make an appointment.
(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the one from Feb. 21.)
- Department of Health and Welfare’s Oral Health Program: http://www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Health/OralHealth/tabid/106/Default.aspx
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Oral Health: http://www.cdc.gov/OralHealth/index.htm