Dental health

It does not seem likely that this author would intentionally write about dental health at Halloween time when it's part of the tradition to give and consume candy, not only to children. However, several friends have recently had major dental work done with some concern and conversations about it. Teeth, and oral health in general, seem to be something that is taken for granted until something happens unexpectedly. And then a toothache is not something to ignore!

Ask any dentist, and they will tell you that the mouth is a reflection of the health of the whole body. There can be signs and symptoms in the mouth of systemic disease, such as evidence of infection or nutritional deficiencies. In addition, teeth that are in poor condition frequently become infected, which can be the entry point for bacteria to cause infections in other organs of the body. There are bacteria in the mouth that are harmless for the most part, but if the individual has had a joint replacement, oral bacteria can migrate to the artificial joint to cause a life-threatening infection. In addition, the oral bacteria can migrate quite directly to the heart, putting the individual at risk for an infection of the heart tissue itself, or of an artificial heart valve that may be in place. For these reasons, some individuals take antibiotics as preventative when they have dental cleaning and/or repair procedures, since those processes can release oral bacteria into the bloodstream putting the patient at risk for infection elsewhere in the body, in such situations as noted.

Some other illnesses can impact oral health, such as osteoporosis. When the bone tissue becomes thin and fragile, the jawbone can be affected, resulting in teeth becoming loose or falling out. Some cancer treatments can erode the dental enamel. Diabetes might increase the likelihood of infections. As plaque accumulates on tooth surfaces, it may erode the gum line, causing pockets of inflammation and pus.

Many foods produce acid that is harmful to teeth and can also erode gums. Dental infections cause pain, so it's not likely a person would ignore such a situation; if/when you have pain in your mouth, see your dentist promptly and follow the recommended treatment plan. Postponing dental care will greatly increase the problem.

BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS: prevention of dental problems is proven to be very effective! Regular dental exams and cleaning every six months is the very best way to maintain oral health. Avoiding accumulation of plaque is accomplished by regular brushing and flossing, and by 'regular' we mean at the very least, twice per day. Use a toothbrush with a small head to allow cleaning of the very back teeth and gums, soft bristles, and a handle that allows a firm grip. Each brushing event should be for a five-minute duration --- use a timer until that becomes habit. Many dental professionals recommend alternating between two different brushes each day; and to replace toothbrushes every three months, and after being ill with a cold or viral illness.

Prevention of dental disease also includes limiting sugary foods and particularly limiting sugary beverages. Beverages labeled “diet” do not cause less damage to overall health or mouth structures, so the caution to limit consumption applies there, as well. Meanwhile, enjoy Halloween candy in moderation, and don't forget diligent use of the toothbrush.