Knowledge is Power in Fight Against Oral Disease

After a recent survey conducted for Oral Health America showed a stark separation in dental care in our country, it is apparent that the “dental divide” is still very present among our population.  The study, involving 2,088 U.S. adults, was conducted online, and found that most Americans (92%) are at least brushing their teeth daily, but when it comes to maintaining good oral health, that simply isn’t enough. Individuals with a household income of under $50,000, including young adults, students, and those with lower education levels, were found to skip or delay dental visits, with the majority citing financial reasons or lack of insurance coverage. But that’s not all. That same group of people are also less likely to floss and/or consume healthy foods, both of which are key components of maintaining a healthy mouth. Additionally, the demographic was found to be more likely to smoke, causing even more damage to teeth and gums.

The dental divide is nothing new (see my previous blogs, Dental Decline Widens as Tooth Loss Declines and Healthcare Reform Not Enough, Says ADA), and a variety of efforts are underway to diminish it. For example, Oral Health America (OHA) is sponsoring a campaign, Fall for Smiles, to work towards bridging the gap between the groups identified in the survey. According to a recent Dental Tribune article, the key to the campaign is education. OHA President and CEO, Beth Truett stated, “All Americans, regardless of income level, age or where they live, deserve to have a healthy mouth. We have a societal responsibility to educate the public and our legislators about why oral health is important for overall health, and to ensure that all Americans, particularly those most vulnerable to disease, are able to obtain the care they need.” Last week, OHA and Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait, a Dental Trade Alliance initiative, hosted an event on Capitol HIll that brought together dozens of national leaders in oral health to address the issues facing our country. Additionally, OHA board members and supporters met with members of Congress to encourage them to support policies that impact the improvement of oral health. Through education and awareness, small changes can add up to make a big difference in the health of Americans.

It has long been recommended that individuals brush their teeth at least twice a day for two minutes, floss regularly, and visit their dentist twice a year for professional cleanings and exams. Dentists are not only capable of taking care of your teeth and gums, but are actually on the front-lines of your overall health. The mouth has been referred to as the window to your health, because a number of health conditions can show symptoms through your oral health. Because oral health and several, serious health conditions (diabetes, heart disease, dementia, etc) have been linked, it’s more important than ever to take the health of your mouth and gums seriously. Oh, and spread the word, because knowledge is power after all.

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