Routine. It may sound like a boring word, but it’s repetitiveness keeps us functioning. Sleep, eat, exercise, shower, brush your teeth, eat, repeat. Routine may not be a “hot concept” but it keeps our bodies and our lives functioning as they should be. One of the most important things you can keep in your daily routine is brushing your teeth! Your teeth and your oral health impact so much of the overall health of your body, taking care of them is a MUST, not an option! In a study performed by Delta Dental, it was a surprise to find that 31% of Americans don’t brush their teeth twice a day, AND 2% of those surveyed don’t brush their teeth AT ALL!! In this time of thousands of kinds of toothbrushes and toothpastes, numerous dental practices and a worldwide internet FULL of helpful information, we still can do better!
October is national Dental Hygiene Awareness Month, and we are bringing you some vital and helpful information to enlighten and educate you on the importance of good oral health. We sat down and interviewed Noelle Copeland RDH, the oral care specialist and dental consultant to the Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy oral care lines to bring light and awareness to some much needed information.
Q: What do you feel like is the most important thing people need to know about the importance of dental hygiene (that they may not be aware of)?
A: I think oral health gets undervalued by people in unintentional ways, they don't mean to be neglectful but because they don't realize that their oral health is a reflection of their overall health, they don't take it as seriously as they would other care practices. It’s actually quite common for people to allow an infection in their mouth to go unaddressed for way too long. Whether that infection is in a tooth or in the gums, there is a mental disconnect people have where they don't think about the infection in their mouth, affecting their systemic health, but it absolutely can and vice versa as well. When the immune system is compromised in any way, it can have a direct affect in the mouth.
If you have an open wound on your hand you would most likely address it as soon as possible, before it got any worse and potentially affected your ability to work or perform your daily functions. Most people don't think like this when it comes to mouth infections. Instead, they will rationalize sore and bleeding gums as normal for them, teeth that hurt or that are sensitive to chewing as fleeting events, and even neglect to address gums that have active periodontal disease.
My biggest take away from any interaction I have with my patients is educating them. I find that when people know better, they do better, and most people want to be healthy, they just need a little direction and the right information.
Q: As people practice their own dental hygiene everyday, what is one thing most everyone is more than likely doing wrong or overlooking?
A: FLOSSING. Most people don't floss or do any interproximal cleaning on a regular basis. You may be able to get away with not flossing for a while but eventually it will catch up with you and have a drastic effect on the teeth and gums if not corrected. Periodontal disease almost ALWAYS starts in between the teeth, and it is directly related to a lack of hygiene care in between the teeth and underneath the gums.
Q: If this is the only piece of information about dental hygiene that someone is going to read this year, what do they need to know?
A: Follow the 2+2+2 rule.
Brush and floss 2 times a day. Brush for 2 minutes. Visit your dentist 2 times a year.
Q: What’s the most important thing parents can do to encourage their kids to take care of their teeth?
Be a good example and start their oral care early. Don't wait until they have teeth to start their oral care, do it from infancy by wiping the mouth and gums, then start brushing the mouth and gums with silicone toothbrushers until the first tooth erupts, then introduce a bristle toothbrush. Early oral care is key to compliance, and routine acceptance in children. Then you are brushing and training them in oral care routines until around age 5. Don't hand over the oral care routine to a child younger than 5, they cannot brush their own teeth well enough before this age and sometimes even later than that. It is the parents responsibility to brush their child's teeth and then when they are able to have more independence, the parent still needs to directly supervise every brushing.
Q: A lot of people claim to be afraid of going to the dentist. What’s one thing they can do to conquer their fear?
A: For children, take them early. Within 6 months of the first tooth erupting or by the first birthday, whichever comes first. This helps introduce dental care in a safe and fun way. Pediatric dentists are excellent choices because they specialize in treating only children and usually have amazing offices filled with games, painted murals, fish tanks, and all the fun stickers and treasure chest toys kids love.
For adults, it becomes more difficult to pinpoint a solution for every person since a fear of the dentist is usually tied to a bad experience, or a lack in overall care that leads to embarrassment or anxiety, or a misconception of the processes that will be performed. If an adult is fearful I would suggest they call around to find a dentist that offers nitrous oxide for appointments. It is a gas inhaled relaxant that can be utilized for any appointment and it works really well. The best part is that it doesn't create any side effects that would inhibit an adult from carrying out the remaining functions of their day. So an adult can drive themselves to the dental appointment and then home or back to work, since the gas only works as it is being inhaled. There are some individuals who might not be candidates for nitrous oxide, so if you have any underlying medical conditions, speak with your MD first about what is best for you.
As October is the beginning of fall and the doorway that leads us into the holiday season, it is also dental hygiene month. The year isn’t over yet! If you have been neglecting your oral care needs or have been putting off your regular check-up with your dentist, it’s not too late! There is always time to start over and make your oral health a priority! Let these dental health months be a reminder that now is a good time to establish or reestablish good oral health habits.
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