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A Woman’s Mouth Matters – Oral Health with Dr. Gundersen

The health of the mouth is intimately connected to the health of the rest of the body. It’s the beginning of the digestive system and the respiratory system, and plays an important role in eating, drinking, breathing, tasting, talking, and kissing. Yet only 60-70% of adults seek routine dental care. In his presentation on “Oral Health: A Woman’s Mouth Matters” at the Gathering in September, Dr. David Gundersen, DDS, MPH (First Choice Dental, Fitchburg) stressed the importance of understanding the risks associated with poor oral health, explored Oral Health 101, and described easy ways to attain and maintain good dental hygiene.

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Says Dr. Gundersen, “Of the 8 common risk factors of poor health, 7 directly affect our oral health. Diet, stress, the amount of control we have over our lives, hygiene, smoking, alcohol use, and injuries can all adversely affect our mouth, gums, and teeth, as well as other organs in our bodies. Even the eighth risk, lack of exercise, indirectly affects our oral health by contributing to our overall health. Keeping your mouth healthy helps keep the rest of your body healthy.” Health concerns such as diabetes, endocarditis (infection of the heart’s inner lining), osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases are particularly detrimental to oral health, and vice versa.

Thankfully, good oral health is easily attainable through four simple steps:

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1. Brush twice a day for two minutes.

Remember, it’s not how hard you brush, but how long. Dr. Gundersen recommends using a timer or a watch to make sure you brush for two minutes – it’s longer than you think! “Tu-tu” is especially easy for kids to remember, and it’s incredibly important to stress good oral health habits to children: 42% of children 2-11 years old have cavities, and 80% of youth will have experienced cavities and oral decay by High School. Additionally, 1 in 3 children is living with untreated dental decay in the U.S., which leads to 54 million school hours missed annually.

2. Floss – be stalked by it!

Floss at least once a day. Link it to something you do every day, such as when your coffee is brewing or while watching the morning news, and leave floss around the house, in your car, and at work.

3. Eat a healthy diet.

Limit your consumption of sugary drinks, or make sure to drink a glass of water after soda, coffee, and sweet treats to wash away any remaining sugar residue. Eat foods good for your bones and tooth enamel – those high in calcium and Vitamin D. And as always, limit tobacco and alcohol – two of the biggest risk factors for gingivitis, tooth decay, and oral cancers.

4. Get regular dental checkups.

Don’t wait for an emergency! Your dentist can detect oral health issues before they become bigger problems. For example, more than 400 commonly used drugs can cause xerostomia, or dry mouth. A dryer mouth means less saliva to help clean teeth, and therefore increases your risk for cavities and gingivitis. Your dentist can explain techniques for increasing your mouth’s saliva output, or recommend alternative medications without a dry mouth side effect. Additionally, oral cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the Unites States. It often starts as a small white or red spot or sore in the mouth and occurs most often in smokers or people who use any other forms of tobacco or alcohol, but the fastest growing cause of oral cancer is HPV. Often, these tumors are hard to detect and can only be found early enough for successful treatment by a thorough oral exam.

That’s it. Brush, floss, eat healthy, and visit your dentist for better oral health – and better health for the rest of your body, which is certainly something to smile about!

African American Mom and Son Brushing Teeth

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