Guest Author: Jackie Quinlan
Over 50% of Americans are more concerned about their dental health than any other potential health issues they may have. They are right to worry, as good oral hygiene and dental care are intrinsically linked to better overall health and well-being.
In many cases, it is possible to defeat common diseases with knowledge and education, and problems such as tooth decay and gum disease are both highly preventable. This is why it is so important that good dental care be made easily accessible to everyone, no matter what their age or circumstance.
Early Preventive Treatment For Children
Around 20% of young children have at least one cavity in their mouth, making tooth decay one of the most common chronic diseases in children. However, tooth decay can be easily prevented with regular brushing. For this reason, educating children on the need for good oral hygiene, and ensuring that every family has access to good dental care is essential.
Early, preventive dental and orthodontic treatment can help avoid tooth loss and overcrowding. In addition, a healthy mouth and smile can also boost self-esteem, leading to greater confidence and general wellbeing.
Continuing Dental Care for Adults
Establishing a good routine in childhood is certainly beneficial, but without continuing care and regular dental checkups, oral health can quickly deteriorate. During a regular checkup, a dentist can identify the early signs of periodontal disease, an infection of the gums which damages tissues and bone and is a common cause of tooth loss in adults.
It is preventable with regular brushing, and can be reversed with early intervention. Without it, patients with periodontal disease are more at risk of developing heart disease, or other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and respiratory disease.
Impact of Poor Oral Health on the Elderly
Periodontal disease is common in adults over 30, but nearly two thirds of elderly patients have periodontitis. Many seniors, especially those in long-term care, have poor dental health, which, if neglected, can affect their speech and ability to chew properly.
When dental health is very poor, even tooth brushing can lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream and causing infections in the joints and organs. Several studies have also found a correlation between tooth loss and dementia, although it is possible that both conditions are influenced by poor lifestyle choices and general overall health.
Expanding Access to Dental Health Care
Despite the large numbers of children with cavities and older patients with gum disease, dental health is generally improving, and an increasing number of people are accessing care through insurance. However, there are still 73 million people without dental insurance, and 57 million who simply cannot find a dentist close to where they live.
In response to demands for better health care for under-served Americans, a new Dental Health Act was passed at the end of last year. It is hoped that the act will give more organizations and groups funding for educational programs, and expand access to dental health care.
Good dental care is essential for good health. It is maintained through taking preventive measures early on, continuing to attend regular checkups throughout adulthood, and ensuring that care isn’t neglected in later life. Through education and greater access to good dental care for all, other serious health issues can be avoided, and general health and well-being improved.