My teenagers had health class in school (middle and high school), but never learned about taking care of their teeth. This is one part of healthcare that is not being taught in school.
Tooth decay can cause problems with eating, sleep, and school work. Cavities and related pain can lead to sepsis (infection) and contribute to kids not getting enough nutrients for their growth and development.
Oral health is rarely life threatening, so it takes a back seat in health care expendature. Dentists have taken more interest in treating rather then preventing oral disease, yet 90% of people have had problems with dental caries or toothache making this one of the most prevalent health problems worldwide. Did you know that oral cancer is the 8th most common cancer worldwide?
Prevention is key. Some suggestions:
First, stop smoking! It’s a bad habit anyway. Second, start with regular brushing (fluoridated toothpaste) and flossing everyday. Another important prevention strategy is to cut out the sweets! Also, folic acid has been shown to prevent gingivitis, but the best results have not been by taking an oral supplement. Using a local application on the teeth and gums has shown better results. A folic acid solution of .1% (about 2 tsp) and swishing in the mouth for about 1 minute twice daily has shown significant improvement in clinical cases. Chewing Xylitol gum has also shown impressive results. Xylitol comes from birch tree bark and is a 5 carbon sugar. Studies from Finland have shown that in young children whose teeth have not erupted, a 70% reduction in cavities was seen if they chewed up to 5 pieces of xylitol gum daily. Other studies have indicated fewer cavities in children whose mothers chewed gum while nursing. Lastly, see your dentist every 6-12 months for a thorough checkup.
At this time of year, when many people may have consumed much more food and sugary drink than usual, the lead Editorial in this week’s Lancet is dedicated to oral health and its neglect. Because oral health is rarely life threatening, it can be a low priority for national governments – and teeth can be seen as expendable….