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Healthy teeth for a healthy life

August 22, 2023
2 minutes

When life gets busy, it may be tempting to skip dental checkups and daily flossing. But oral health is crucial to your overall well-being. By taking a few easy preventive actions, you can avoid pain and more serious health issues.

Dental health in the U.S. has improved a lot over the past several decades. Baby boomers are the first generation with a majority keeping their natural teeth throughout their lives. But we still have a ways to go. Every year, dental emergencies resulting in unplanned care cost more than $45 billion in lost productivity.

An inside look at the problem. Lots of things can go wrong in our mouths. Some common dental problems include:

Cavities and untreated tooth decay. Almost all adults (96%) age 65 or older have had a cavity. You should never ignore a cavity—if it isn’t treated, it can lead to an abscess.

Periodontal (gum) diseases. Almost half of adults over the age of 30 have mild or severe inflammation of the gums and bone around the teeth. If unaddressed, gum disease can cause infections and lost bone support in the mouth.

Tooth loss. Untreated tooth decay and gum disease can result in lost teeth.

Dry mouth. People who don’t have enough saliva may be at increased risk for tooth decay and infection.

Poor oral health has far-reaching effects. It can limit your ability to taste, talk, make facial expressions, smell, chew and swallow. It can affect your social interactions and even your earning potential. It’s also associated with chronic disease. Some studies suggest that untreated gum disease can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke as well.

Tips for oral health

Fortunately, consistently good oral hygiene prevents most dental diseases. Follow these tips for the best results:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss once a day.
  • Buy a new toothbrush every three to four months.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Don’t use tobacco.

Finally, don’t wait until you’re in pain to visit the dentist. In addition to fixing routine issues, dentists are a crucial line of defense in identifying mouth and throat cancers. Go regularly to catch any potential problems early.

Sources: American Dental Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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