National Children’s Dental Health Month 2018 kicks off on February 1. Its aim is to raise awareness about the importance of managing our children’s dental health — and our own — for reasons that have to do with more than just their teeth.
How Our Oral Health Affects Our Overall Health
Taking care of your child’s oral health is as important as taking care of their overall physical health, since one affects the other. You heard right. Untreated tooth decay can lead to gum disease, and the inflammation caused by gum disease can travel through the bloodstream and to arteries in the heart, causing atherosclerosis — aka “hardening of the arteries.” It’s hard to believe that a few cavities could “snowball” into heart problems, but believe it or not, it’s true.
Oral health problems can also complicate symptoms of diabetes, making it harder to control blood sugar, which ironically can make oral health problems worse as well. It’s the proverbial “vicious circle!” Another risk of poor oral health is an increased risk for respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, caused by breathing in bacteria from tooth decay and/or gum disease over a prolonged period of time.
Still another danger of ignoring cavities and other oral health problems is Dementia. Bacteria from gingivitis may enter the brain through nerve channels in the head or through the bloodstream and lead to dementia and even Alzheimer’s Disease. This may seem far-fetched when thinking in terms of your 7 year old, but they are learning about the importance of taking care of their teeth and gums from you — right now!
An Ounce of Prevention …
Teaching your kids good oral health habits — twice daily brushing, daily flossing and regular dental checkups — by modeling them yourself can help both you and your kids avoid the health complications caused by poor oral health. It’s estimated that kids in the U.S. miss more than 51 million hours of school each year due to dental problems. It’s also the number one reason for childhood visits to the ER! The good news is that it’s also completely preventable — if you take a proactive approach.
Now is the Perfect Time to Take Action
With the spotlight on dental health in February, now is the perfect time to get your child in for an annual dental check-up, if you haven’t already. Regular checkups combined with good daily oral hygiene will help ensure that teeth stay strong and healthy, reduce the odds of and the severity of tooth decay, and protect overall health at the same time.