Why is dentistry so important?
- More than just fresh breath and straight teeth, regular visits to your dentist are important for overall health
- A connected system, the whole body suffers when disease creeps into a single part such as oral bacteria’s effects on the heart, intestines, and brain
- An unseen danger, untreated mouths may have already done damage during absences from routine visits to the dentist
- Demonstrate to children the importance of oral hygiene as a part of full-body health
What is oral hygiene?
More than a word for cleanliness, hygiene means routine. Oral Hygiene isn’t simply “brush and floss;” it’s “brush and floss as part of your daily routine,” just as bathing, fitness, and clean clothes are components of healthy living. Making a habit of routine professional examinations and cleanings are as important as learning proper daily cleaning techniques.
Learning to brush our teeth is probably the first act of personal care and discipline we learn as children. Children should learn oral hygiene is more than just curing bad breath. Oral health routines for children are crucial, because of the changing shape of faces and growing bones. As baby teeth are replaced with adult teeth, they are at an increased risk for developing abnormalities that might impact long-term health or the impression made on other children and adults. As parents, we want our children to have every advantage in life, and orthodontics can help align their smiles with your hopes and dreams.
Like many during the pandemic, you may have forgone your children’s consistent dental cleanings. Regular checkups are important for overall health, and those who delayed (ironically, in the interest of health) may have created unintended health consequences.
Conditions linked to oral health
- Everything you eat, drink, inhale, chew upon, or suck affects your mouth.
- With every breath or swallow, potential disease passes further into your body.
Your body is an interconnected system. That which enters the bloodstream in the mouth through your lips or gums, will reach your other organs too. When dislodged, harmful bacteria from your mouth can have effects on joints, your heart, gut health, and interfere with your brain’s ability to function properly. With many connections between mouth and body, you can see the risks of not establishing and diligently maintaining an oral health routine.
Studies show the conditions in your mouth can create or exacerbate health issues throughout the body such as heart disease, diabetes, and the microbiome in your gut. Inversely, diseases affecting other body parts can also express themselves in the mouth, such as bleeding gums from pregnancy-related gingivitis or the imbalance of bacteria in the stomach and intestinal tract leading to bad breath. Orthopedic surgeons and dentists know that dislodging bacteria during normal cleanings can overwhelm and attack repaired joints and/or medical-grade materials inside the body. So much so that typically, antibiotics are prescribed for dental work following orthopedic surgeries for the rest of a patient’s life, illustrating the powerful connection between mouth and body.
Why are regular dental checkups important?
Youth and adolescence are periods of substantial growth where frequent visits to the dentist establish both effective habits and identify dental issues early. Sudden changes, such as tooth extraction, injury, or bone loss cause the mouth to rapidly shift to accommodate. In both cases, your bite, smile, and oral health can be drastically affected. Without intervention and remediation, those shifts may lead to unintended, costly, and uncomfortable consequences should a treatment plan not be identified quickly.
Looking into a mirror or the smiling faces of our children, we only see about a quarter of our teeth–even dental professionals cannot see into nor treat their own mouths. Parents cannot know what to look for in healthy mouth anatomy, much less tooth decay or gum disease, so professional guidance is needed.
Going to the dentist is a routine as important as well-baby, pediatric checkups for children or as essential as mammograms and prostate, or gynecological exams are for adults. Without proper care and examination, gums, hard and soft palates, tongue, lips, and cheeks might be exhibiting symptoms you cannot see or feel. While you are not an expert, you are empowered to affect your health by visiting your dental office regularly.
How has COVID-19 affected oral health?
The biggest pandemic effect on oral health is reluctance or inability to see a dentist. In the underprepared beginning of Covid-19 most personal protective equipment (PPE) was redirected to hospital emergency departments, and elective procedures, including non-emergency dental procedures, were placed on hold. After patients were allowed to return, many remained scared or found their dentists had retired or closed their practices. Many patients have yet to get back in the chair. Meanwhile, our mouths continue to need professional teeth cleaning.
During this time, many have noticed changes. Patients report discoloration and yellowing of their teeth as well as mask breath or a grainy feel of their teeth.
- Yellowing is a normal process as enamel wears thinner and is particularly noticeable on canines that work harder than other teeth. While not a symptom of disease, teeth whitening and fluoride treatments can help.
- The feeling of grainy or “fuzzy” teeth is plaque, which develops from bacterial reactions with the foods we eat. Plaque traps acids and other bacteria that harm our teeth. Regular brushing and flossing remove a majority of plaque, but over time, in the recesses you miss, plaque becomes tartar.
- Mask breath may be a combination of several factors: materials in the mask, normal smells amplified by the limited air circulation, or it could be a sign that disease, previously undetected, is occurring.
While Covid-19 remains in circulation, you can rest assured: your dental office is taking more precautions than ever to keep your family and theirs safe. It is time to come back if you haven’t already.
Oral Hygiene is the greatest gift you can give
As parents, our charge is to launch our children into adulthood with the tools they need for success. By the time we do, they will have visited the dentist twice per year for nearly twenty years. Ideally, they will continue this pattern into adulthood, making sure to incorporate the health of their mouths into the routine care they do for the rest of their bodies. As you find your new normal after the immediate uncertainty of Covid-19 has passed, please renew your commitment to your mouth: the rest of your body will thank you!