NMC Commentary

How Can I Improve My Oral Health?

Oral health – having healthy teeth and gums and a health mouth — is important in itself and the connections to overall are stronger and more numerous than you might expect!  Each of us can improve our oral health by being attentive to it on a daily basis. As the Vermont Department of Health recently shared through the 3-4-50 campaign, research shows that doing so will help us enjoy healthier lives overall, with less risk for chronic disease.

It really is as simple as getting back to basics in order to improve oral health.  The Oral Health Foundations sums up those steps nicely: “Brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste. Clean in between your teeth at least once a day using interdental brushes or floss. If you use mouthwash don’t use it directly after brushing as you rinse away the fluoride from your toothpaste. Quit smoking to help reduce the chances of tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss, and in more severe cases mouth cancer. Make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride; it helps strengthen tooth enamel making it more resistant to decay. Change your toothbrush every two to three months or sooner if it becomes worn as it will not clean the teeth properly.”

Taking the time to embrace those healthy habits, in the spirit of RiseVT, is an important step forward towards better overall personal health. There are additional steps you can take that will support you on your path to better oral health.  Make sure you see a dentist and dental hygienist. Just as having an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider is key to your overall health, regular visits with the dentist are important to your oral health.  Their support, expertise, and care can help you maintain what is working well and help detect and address any concerns which may arise.  It makes sense that what we eat directly impacts the health in our mouths.  The Oral Health Foundation shares interesting tips here too. “Chew sugar-free gum after eating or drinking, especially sugary foods, to help protect your teeth and gums in between meals. Wait an hour after eating or drinking anything before brushing as then enamel will be softened and you could be brushing away tiny particles. A varied diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fresh fruit and vegetables can help to prevent gum disease. Finishing a meal with a cube of cheese is a great, and tasty, way to reduce the effect of acids from the foods damaging your teeth.”

How serious is the need for good oral health?  Very. 3-4-50 highlights that three personal behaviors (no physical activity, poor diet, and tobacco use) drive four diseases (cancer, heart disease & stroke, type 2 diabetes, and lung disease) that cause over 50 percent of deaths in Vermont.  In their 3-4-50 materials relating to oral health, VDH says, “Regular dental visits may lead to early detection of decay, gum disease and oral cancer, which can reduce the risk of more expensive dental procedures and improve overall health.”  The tie between tobacco use and oral health problems is remarkable.  VDH material show that “compared to those who have never used tobacco, the odds of losing all teeth was 23x greater for every day tobacco users, 8x greater for some day tobacco users, and 5x greater for former tobacco users.” That is a great reason to quit using tobacco.  Fortunately, free help and support is available to Vermonters who want to quit using tobacco.  Call Chari Andersen in NMC’s Lifestyle Medicine at 524-8480 or visit 802quits.org for more information on fee gum, patches, and lozenges; help in-person, by phone, or online; tips to quit on your own; and more support for your efforts to live tobacco free.

Through RiseVT, so many people in our community are actively embracing healthier lifestyles which contribute improved overall health and well-being. We can each make time for a walk each day to begin to build more physical activity into our lives.  It takes some thought, as we lead hectic lives, but you can do it.  We can each drink more water to reduce the calories we consume and avoid subjecting our teeth to the harm of sugary sweetened beverages.  We can enjoy more fruits and vegetables in the foods we eat and now is a great time to take that step as Vermont’s farms and gardens provide a wonderful bounty.  Join us in rising to a healthier future by visiting www.RiseVT.com, connecting with RiseVT on social media, or joining in on one of our upcoming events highlighted in the newspaper.  As part of your journey to a healthier future, be sure to add in healthier oral health habits – you mouth and your whole body will thank you!

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer