Dental Health & Your Health
The Let’s Talk Teeth campaign focuses on the connection between dental health and overall bodily health. Many residents fail to realize that more than the state of teeth and gums is affected by poor oral care and habits. The following dental facts, statistics, and information prove the impact of oral health throughout every stage of life.
Infants & Babies (0-2 years)
It’s never too early for tooth decay to begin. In fact, dental decay is about five times as common as asthma, and seven times as common as hay fever. Though it is preventable, this decay remains one of the most common chronic diseases among children. This is why dental professionals recommend that children begin seeing a dentist by the age of 1.
Unbeknownst to many parents, the health of baby teeth is just as important as the health of adult teeth. As these baby teeth save space for permanent teeth to grow in, it is important that cavities and other decay don’t cause a child to lose their teeth too soon. A baby usually gets their first teeth around 6-10 months. At this time it is the parent’s responsibility to begin brushing the tooth or teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day. The following are some other statistics and facts that you should be aware of:
- According to data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, from 1999 – 2004, 27.9% of children ages 2-5 have experienced dental decay.
- The percentage of persons aged two years and over that failed to visit a dentist in 2011 was 10% higher for those that lived in non-metropolitan areas, as opposed to those living in metropolitan areas.
- After your baby is born, tooth-decay causing germs can easily pass from your mouth to your baby’s mouth. These germs are most easily passed through the sharing of utensils, putting your baby’s pacifier or hands in your mouth, and even kissing.
- Babies should never be put to sleep with a bottle filled with breast milk, formula, juice, or sugary drinks.
- The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that infants see a dentist for a dental exam within six months of developing the first tooth, or by their first birthday.
Children (3-18 years)
Strong baby teeth allow children to speak clearly, smile with confidence, and eat food properly to help their bodies grow. The pain and discomfort of common tooth decay, such as cavities, can make it difficult for children to develop properly. Tooth decay is the single most common disease in children ages 6-11, and is four times more common than asthma in adolescents ages 14-17. Cavities occur when germs in the mouth absorb starches and sugars from drinks and food to create an acid. The acid weakens tooth enamel and thus cavities occur.
Cavities can be prevented with good brushing and flossing habits, as well as using fluoride. Fluoridated water has proven to reduce tooth decay in children up to 60%. Parents and guardians should ensure that brushing is occurring at least twice a day. Until the age of 7 or 8, it is recommended that responsible adults assist in the brushing process in order to produce the best results. Other statistics and facts about the oral health of children and adolescents include:
- 51 million hours of school are missed each year because of dental disease.
- Students who take tests while suffering from a toothache do not perform as well as students who are undistracted by pain.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children 6 to 19 years old.
- Compared to the average child, those with poor oral health were almost three times as likely to miss school due to dental pain.
- Persons aged 2 years and over living in metropolitan areas had a higher percentage of visiting a dentist in 2011 (42.9%, age adjusted) than those living in non-metropolitan areas (37.4%, age adjusted). [ Full Report Here ]
Oral care is essential to a safe and healthy pregnancy. The diet and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can greatly increase a woman’s risk of developing tooth decay or gum disease. Infections caused by tooth or gum disease affect both the health of the mother and her baby. In fact, gum disease in pregnant women has proven to cause early births and low birth weights.
As the germs found in your mouth can spread to your entire body, infection also increases the risk of diabetes or preeclampsia (high blood pressure) during pregnancy. With all of this information at hand, it is surprising that 35% to 44% of women do not receive professional oral care while pregnant. When a pregnant women’s mouth is healthy, the baby is more likely to have a healthy mouth too. If you are pregnant, consider the following facts and statistics about your oral health:
- A 2001 study found that pregnant women who develop gum disease between weeks 21 and 24 are four to seven times more likely to give birth before week 37.
- In the U.S., nearly one in five women do not visit the dentist during the year before they become pregnant.
- Changes to your body when you are pregnant may cause your gums to become sore, red and puffy. You can avoid this by brushing and flossing every day.
While most adults show some signs of gum disease, less than two-thirds have seen a dentist in the past six months. Embarrassment about gum disease and tooth decay cause many adults to avoid smile and laughing freely. This may even be why 28% of adults between the ages of 35 and 44 have left their tooth decay untreated.
Not doing anything about poor oral health leads to discomfort, pain, and a host of other associated consequences. It is often a source of anxiety for those participating in social setting or trying to get jobs. There is no better time than now to handle your dental issues and restore the beauty and strength of your smile. Consider the following statistics and facts about the oral health of other adults:
- Nearly one in 20 adults are missing all of their teeth. This makes eating difficult, which can lead to poor nutrition and feelings of embarrassment that cause emotional distress and isolation.
- Around one in four adults have reported some sort of facial pain in the past six months, which is usually caused by toothaches.
- Over 40% of low-income adults 20 years and older have at least one untreated and decayed tooth, compared to the 16% of wealthier adults,
- Approximately 164 million hours of work are lost yearly as a result of dental problems, with an average of 148 hours lost per 100 employed persons.
It’s important for senior adults to be aware of the oral problems that emerge with advancing age. Many seniors do not have dental insurance as these benefits can be lost with retirement. Older adults can develop new tooth decay at higher rates then children. Out of adults aged 65 to 74, 23% suffer from severe gum disease. Out of all U.S. adults, nearly 25% of all seniors have lost all of their teeth.
While proper brushing techniques can help prevent oral disease, older adults may find it difficult to perform proper cleaning and seek effective dental care. Poor dental health associated with improper maintenance increases your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. In order to protect the future health of your teeth and gums, keep in mind the following statistics and facts:
- About 75% of people ages 60 and over have only some of their natural teeth. Tooth loss is associated with both weight loss and obesity among older persons.
- Only about 10% of retirees have dental benefits from their former employer, according to the non-profit advocacy group, Oral Health America.
- The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in 2012 that 22% of Medicare beneficiaries had not seen a dentist in nearly five years.
Persons with Special Needs
Providing oral care to people with special needs requires adaptation on part of the dentist. In order to ensure that your dentist is able to do just that, you must provide all of the patient’s medical history. Communication is key in this respect. You should be prepared to explain the patient’s intellectual and functional capabilities to the dentist and other staff.
In addition, it is important that patients have minimal distractions during their appointment, and that the dental processes are explained prior to the appointment. Ensure the patient is aware of his or her surroundings, and make sure he or she is completely comfortable. The following are additional facts about oral health and how it relates to those with special needs:
- Parents of special needs children have struggled to find dentists who will treat them. In a 2005 study, nearly three-fifths of 208 dentists in Michigan said they would not provide care for children on the autism spectrum. Out of the same 208 dentists, two-thirds said the same for adults on the autism spectrum.
- People with autism experience few oral health conditions that are out of the ordinary.
Fluoride is a mineral that exists naturally in water supplies. The two most beneficial attributes of fluoride are its ability to prevent tooth decay and its contribution to healthy bones. Fluoride has proven to help reduce tooth decay in children ages 6-8 by up to 42%.
Regardless of age, sex, and race, fluoridation provides protection against tooth decay for those with limited access to prevention care. Dental professionals recommend drinking fluoridated water and using fluoride toothpaste at every age to help protect against poor oral health. Other facts to be aware of when considering the use of fluoride in Connecticut include:
- In Connecticut, 27.3% of kindergarten children under the age of 9 have experienced tooth decay.
- In Connecticut, 40.6% of third grade students have experienced tooth decay.
- In 2010, 89.8% of the population in Connecticut on public water systems received fluoridated water.
- Fluoride added to community drinking water at a concentration of 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million has repeatedly proven to be a safe, inexpensive, and extremely effective method of preventing tooth decay.
Oral Health & Diabetes
Research shows that people with gum disease find it hard to control their blood sugar levels. In fact, people with oral disease are two times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes over a 20-year period.
People who have diabetes have a lower resistance to infection and a slowing of the healing process. If you have untreated diabetes, you may find it difficult to heal following necessary oral surgery or a dental procedure because there is reduced blood flow to the treatment site. Also, leaving your diabetes uncontrolled means you can develop an oral disease. The following are quotes from reputable and respected professionals about the correlations between oral health and diabetes:
- “Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes” – Mayo Clinic Staff
- “People with diabetes are at special risk for periodontal (gum) disease, an infection of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place.”
Oral Health & Heart Disease
Professionals say that people with gum disease, also known as gum disease, are nearly twice as likely to suffer from heart disease. This is because bad bacteria from an infected mouth can affect your heart. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2007 showing that aggressively treating gum disease reduces the chances of heart problems. Dental professionals have had the following things to say about oral health and its effects on heart disease:
- “Endocarditis, which is an infection of the inner lining of the heart, can be affected bacteria or other germs coming from parts of the body such as the mouth.” – Mayo Clinic Staff
- “Some research suggests that heart disease clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.”
Oral Health & Smoking
Since the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was issued in 1964, more than 20 million Americans have died because of smoking. The 2004 U.S. Surgeon General’s report shows that smoking impacts nearly every organ of the body. In addition to being bad for your health, smoking stains teeth and gums, and also causes an extra buildup of plaque.
Smoking reduces blood flow to the gums and cuts off the supply of important nutrients. By raising the overall temperature of the mouth, smoking damages and kills important cells in the mouth. It also reduces vitamin C levels, which are needed to keep gums healthy. The following are important statistics and facts that everyone should know about smoking and its impact on health:
- Each day, more than 3,200 youth ages 18 and under smoke their first cigarette. Every day, another 2,100 of young adult and youth who identify as occasional smokers also progress to daily smokers.
- According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s report, more than 42 million Americans still smoke.
- No matter how long you have used tobacco products, quitting can quickly decrease your risk of developing a number of diseases such as oral cancer, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.
- Within five years of diagnosis, 37% of those with oral cancer are expected to die.
Would you like to speak with someone from the Connecticut Oral Health Initiative about any of the information you’ve seen here? Contact us and we can address your questions and concerns.