Watch Out, Men!

New studies have surfaced that show yet another difference between the two genders. When it comes to oral health and hygiene, woman generally do better. This is an interesting wake up call for men to make sure that they take care of their teeth because it can damage your health if you do not go for regular cleanings.

Why is Oral Health Important for Men?
Men are less likely than women to take care of their physical health and, according to surveys and studies, their oral health is equally ignored. Good oral health recently has been linked with longevity. Yet, one of the most common factors associated with infrequent dental checkups is just being male. Men are less likely than women to seek preventive dental care and often neglect their oral health for years, visiting a dentist only when a problem arises. When it comes to oral health, statistics show that the average man brushes his teeth 1.9 times a day and will lose 5.4 teeth by age 72. If he smokes, he can plan on losing 12 teeth by age 72. Men are also more likely to develop oral and throat cancer and periodontal (gum) disease.
Why is periodontal disease a problem?
Periodontal disease is a result of plaque, which hardens into a rough, porous substance called tartar. The acids produced and released by bacteria found in tartar irritate gums. These acids cause the breakdown of fibers that anchor the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets that fill with even more bacteria. Researchers have found a connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, which can place people at risk for heart attacks and strokes. See your dentist if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Bleeding gums during brushing
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Loose or separating teeth

Do you take medications?
Since men are more likely to suffer from heart attacks, they also are more likely to be on medications that can cause dry mouth. If you take medication for the heart or blood pressure, or if you take antidepressants, your salivary flow could be inhibited, increasing the risk for cavities. Saliva helps to reduce the cavity-causing bacteria found in your mouth.
Do you use tobacco?
If you smoke or chew, you have a greater risk for gum disease and oral cancer. Men are affected twice as often as women, and 95 percent of oral cancers occur in those over 40 years of age.
The most frequent oral cancer sites are the tongue, the floor of the mouth, soft palate tissues in back of the tongue, lips and gums. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement following surgery and even death. More than 8,000 people die each year from oral and pharyngeal diseases. If you use tobacco, it is important to see a dentist frequently for cleanings and to ensure your mouth remains healthy. Your general dentist can perform a thorough screening for oral cancer.
Do you play sports?
If you participate in sports, you have a greater potential for trauma to your mouth and teeth. If you play contact sports, such as football, soccer, basketball and even baseball, it is important to use a mouthguard, which is a flexible appliance made of plastic that protects teeth from trauma. If you ride bicycles or motorcycles, wear a helmet.
To take better care of your oral health, it is important to floss daily, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice daily and visit your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings. Here are some tips to better dental health:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to reach every surface of each tooth. If the bristles on your toothbrush are bent or frayed, buy a new one.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months or after you’ve been sick.
  • Choose a toothpaste with fluoride. This can reduce tooth decay by as much as 40 percent.
  • Brush properly. To clean the outside surfaces of your teeth, position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion using short, gentle strokes. To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle strokes over each tooth and its surrounding gum tissue. Spend at least three minutes brushing.
  • Floss properly. Gently insert floss between teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or snap it into place. Curve the floss into a C-shape against one tooth and then the other.

Updated: February 2007

Source: http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=M&iid=312&aid=1266

Elder Abuse

The last line of defense with elder abuse is often who you least expect…the dentist. Elder abuse is a huge problem in this country and the unlikely heroes are dentists who are able to detect when elder abuse is taking place through examining their teeth and doing their best to look for indicators.

With the American population living longer, seniors’ oral health has become an important issue, as has the widespread problem of elder abuse. Every year more than 2.5 million older Americans may be victims of elder abuse, and in some cases dentists serve as the first line of defense, according to a report in the May/June 2005 issue of General Dentistry, the clinical, peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

Seniors’ oral health is often affected by medications, some of which can cause dry mouth. Many of these medications can also cause serious interactions when combined with anesthesia during certain procedures. Arthritis can make it difficult to maintain proper oral health, while dentures may sometimes prove to be uncomfortable.

These complications make it difficult for seniors to be independent when it comes to taking care of their oral health.

“Each person should be treated depending on their condition and should be given a hygiene schedule that meets their needs. Special devices may also be needed to help them complement their homecare,” says AGD spokesperson Eric Shapira, DDS, MAGD.

Dentists may be the first people outside the home to have the opportunity to recognize signs and symptoms of abuse. “Dentists often have established a trusting relationship with patients through regular visits,” says lead author Michael C. Herren, DMB.

Elder abuse victims feel ashamed and fear that reporting the abuse will result in chastisement from their caregivers. Often underreported, elder abuse appears in many forms including, but not limited to, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and financial abuse.

Forms of elder abuse:

  • Physical abuse includes any action resulting in bodily injury.
  • Emotional abuse signs include one being withdrawn, very quiet or fearful.

  • Signs of sexual abuse include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) manifested in the mouth.

  • Neglect involves withholding of basic needs.
  • Financial abuse is usually perpetrated by someone in the family and can include a number of activities that exploit one’s finances.

 Reviewed: January 2012

Source: http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=S&iid=328&aid=1313

Why It’s Uncool to Chew

Many people still hold onto the misconception that chewing tobacco is healthier than smoking cigarettes but this myth has been debunked a long time ago. Chewing tobacco is linked to just as many cancers as smoking cigarettes and has all kinds of harmful effects on the body as a whole. Here is a new slogan aimed to spread awareness about the harms of chewing tobacco.

A slogan contest is intended to teach young people that spit tobacco is dangerous and should be avoided. (Photo: Marzanna Syncerz, Dreamstime.com)

CHICAGO, Ill., USA: Oral Health America (OHA) is holding its 14th annual NSTEP (National Spit Tobacco Project) slogan contest. Teaming up with Little League Baseball and Softball, the contest calls on players ages 8-14 to create a compelling, 10-word phrase describing the dangers of spit tobacco for a chance to win a trip to the Little League Baseball World Series.

In addition to its long history with baseball, spit tobacco is used more frequently by young people – almost half (46 percent) of new users start before they reach the age of 18. Spit tobacco is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, tongue, stomach and esophagus, mouth lesions, receding gums, tooth decay and tooth loss.

Through the slogan contest, OHA and Little League reach tens of thousands of young people each year with the message that spit tobacco is dangerous and should be avoided.

“Little League is committed to providing proper health and wellbeing for children throughout the world,” said Stephen D. Keener, president and CEO of Little League Baseball and Softball. “Smokeless tobacco has no place whatsoever in the lives of our youth. We applaud Oral Health America’s effort in keeping children away from smokeless tobacco and starting the conversation with so many parents about the dangers associated with its use. The NSTEP Slogan Contest is a great way to engage children and their families and educate them on the risks associated with smokeless tobacco.”

“Every summer we hear from parents across the country who use the slogan contest as an opportunity to talk to their children about spit tobacco for the first time,” said OHA President and CEO Beth Truett. “All tobacco products are harmful and we look forward to reaching even more young people with this important message.”

For the first time, contest participants will be able to submit their slogans online by filling out a simple form. The winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa., and a $500 cash prize. In addition, OHA will make a $500 donation to the player’s Little League organization. For more information about the contest or to submit a slogan, please visit nstep.org/contest.

(Source: Oral Health America)

Source: http://www.dental-tribune.com/articles/news/usa/24876_competition_educates_youth_about_the_dangers_of_spit_tobacco.html

What Your Teeth Show

Most people don’t realize just how indicative oral health is of the overall health of the body. For instance, the appearance of your tongue is critical to understanding the health of your muscles. The smell of your breath shows how your body is processing your food. There are also eight other things that your mouth and teeth are showing that you don’t realize.

1. What your dentist is seeing: Or in this case, smelling. You’ve got funky breath.

What it could mean: The most likely causes of less-than-minty-fresh breath are poor oral hygiene or gum disease, but halitosis can also signal a sinus infection, especially if your dentist still notices the odor when you exhale through your nose, says Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Cardiology and Comprehensive Care at New York University College of Dentistry. It can also be caused by acid reflux — a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found a strong association between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms and bad breath — or sleep apnea, says Ruchi Sahota, DDS, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, because people with sleep apnea are more likely to breath through their mouths at night, which can lead to dry mouth (another cause of bad breath).

Next steps: If your dentist decides that the problem isn’t subpar brushing or gum disease, they’ll likely refer you to your primary care physician to find the underlying cause. 

2. What your dentist is seeing: Your gums bleed during the flossing, just like they do at home.

What it could mean: When you get back on the flossing bandwagon after falling off and notice some bleeding for the first few days, that’s normal, Sahota says. What’s not normal is gums continuing to bleed every time you floss. “It could be an indicator that you’re pre-diabetic, diabetic and don’t know it or, if you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, your blood sugar isn’t under control,” she says. Though it’s not exactly clear why diabetes and gum disease are linked (or whether there’s a causal effect to the relationship), the American Academy of Periodontology says that diabetics may be more likely to develop the disease because the condition makes them more susceptible to infection.

Next steps: If you know you have diabetes and your gums keep bleeding, talk to your primary care doc about how to manage the condition better. And if your dentist is the first one to suspect diabetes, he or she will recommend you get a blood sugar test.

3. What your dentist is seeing: White patches on your tongue or inner cheek.

What it could mean: You may have a less-than-stellar immune system. Oral thrush (an overgrowth of the candida fungus, or yeast, in the mouth) can lead to creamy white patches on your tongue or inner cheeks, and it can signal an immune system that’s not up to snuff. (We all have some candida in our mouths, but it’s kept in check in healthy immune systems). People are much more likely to develop thrush if they’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer or have serious immunosuppression, such as HIV, but a dip in immunity due to a cold, a course of antibiotics or using corticosteroids for conditions like asthma can make someone more vulnerable too.

Next steps: An antifungal medication can help clear away the patches.

4. What your dentist is seeing: Worn-down teeth.

What it could mean: You’re more stressed than you realize. Stress can manifest as teeth grinding, wearing down teeth. “In really bad cases, people will flatten them out,” says Wolff. Your personality type may predispose you to grinding, too. A 2010 study in the Journal of Research in Personality found that people who rated higher on the neuroticism scale were also more likely to report that they grinded their teeth. Research in the International Journal of Oral Science in 2014 reported that sustained jaw clenching (another characteristic of bruxism, or teeth grinding) can lead to severe damage of the tissue in the joint that connects your jaw to the rest of your skull.

Next steps: Your dentist can fit you for a bite-protecting device like an acrylic mouth guard to wear at night to minimize the damage.

5. What your dentist is seeing: Squeaky-clean teeth but inflamed gums.

What it could mean: It’s rare (Wolff has only picked up on it once during his 34 years in practice), but it’s possible for certain types of acute myeloid leukemia to spread to the gums and cause bleeding, swelling and inflammation. “What would tip us off is if the gums are bright red and bleed upon touch, but the teeth themselves are immaculately clean with very little plaque,” Wolff says. That combined with weakness and weight loss merits a trip to your primary care physician for evaluation.

Next steps: If you meet these criteria, schedule an appointment with your PCP to get it checked out.

6. What your dentist is seeing: Your dental X-rays look a little off.

What it could mean: The bones of the jaw aren’t immune to the effects of osteoporosis, and on an X-ray, they may take on the appearance of ground glass, says Wolff. Osteoporosis also puts you at increased risk of tooth loss. Women with the condition had an average of 3.3 fewer teeth than women without it, noted a study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

Next steps: Ask your doctor about getting a bone-density test. If it shows you have or are at risk for osteoporosis, you can discuss medications and other ways to slow the progression.

7. What your dentist is seeing: Your mouth is really, really dry.

What it could mean: Medications like antihistamines can dry out your mouth, but an extremely dry mouth (as in, you couldn’t swallow a cracker without water) is a hallmark symptom of Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition in which moisture-producing glands in the body come under fire from white blood cells. It’s most commonly diagnosed in people over 40, and 9 out of 10 Sjögren’s patients are women. “It gets parched in there,” says Wolff, who’ll ask patients with dry mouth whether they’re taking any medications that list dry mouth as a side effect and whether they’re also experiencing dry eyes (another Sjögren’s symptom). The lack of saliva can also lead to tooth decay.

Next steps: If he suspects Sjögren’s, Wolff refers patients straight to a rheumatologist for testing.

8. What your dentist is seeing: Lesions at the very back of your mouth.

What it could mean: You could have oral cancer, which isn’t exactly common, but it’s also not rare. The American Cancer Society estimates that 45,780 new cases of oral cavity or pharynx cancer will be diagnosed in 2015, just over half the number of expected skin cancer cases. Cancers at the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancers) are most commonly caused by the human papillomavirus infection (HPV). Although the lesions can pop up anywhere in the mouth, they’re most likely to develop under the tongue around the base and near your esophagus, says Judith Haber, PhD, principal investigator of the Teaching Oral-Systemic Health (TOSH) program at NYU College of Nursing. Oral cavity and oropharyngeal tumors are twice as likely to develop in men as in women, and the American Cancer Society reports a recent uptick in cases of oropharyngeal cancers linked to HPV.

Next steps: If your dentist notices these lesions, they may ask you about your sexual activity to assess whether you could have contracted HPV, as oral sex is one of the main reasons people get oral HPV, says Haber. They may then refer you to your doctor or an oncologist for testing.

Also On HuffPost:

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mouth-health-signs_55b7acfbe4b0074ba5a64a9a

Why Do People Need Braces?

For many people, hearing that they have to get braces is melancholy news. There are some uncomfortable aspects to having braces and some people don’t fully understand why getting braces is necessary. As dentistry and medicine as a whole has progressed, oral health has been linked more and more to overall health and that includes orthodontics.

A dentist usually recommends braces to improve a patient’s “orofacial” appearance. Through orthodontic treatment, problems like crooked or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites, incorrect jaw position and disorders of the jaw joints are corrected. If left untreated, these problems can result in tooth decay, gum disease, headaches and earaches, as well as speaking, biting or chewing problems.

When is the right time for braces?

Patients with orthodontic problems can benefit from treatment at nearly any age. An ideal time for placement of braces is between 10 and 14 years of age, while the head and mouth are still growing and teeth are more accessible to straightening. However, because any adjustments in facial appearance can be traumatic to a child during these sensitive years, parents should discuss the matter with their children before braces are applied.

And braces aren’t just for kids. More and more adults are also wearing braces to correct minor problems and to improve their smiles.

What kind of braces will I have to wear?

Your dentist will know what appliance is best for your particular problem, but you often have a choice. Braces generally come in three varieties: The most popular type are brackets, metal, ceramic or plastic, that are bonded to teeth. Ceramic brackets are typically clear or tooth-colored and are far less noticeable than metal brackets. Lingual, or concealed, braces are brackets that attach to the back of teeth, hidden from view. Both types of braces use wires to move the teeth to the desired position.

A new alternative to traditional braces is a series of clear, customized, removable appliances called aligners. Not only are these braces invisible, but they also are removable so they won’t trap food and plaque between your teeth like metal braces. You’ll wear each aligner for about two weeks and only remove it for eating, brushing and flossing. This may be an option for adults with mild spacing problems. Invisible aligners are not appropriate for children and adolescents who are still waiting for permanent teeth.

How long will I have to wear braces?

That depends upon your treatment plan. The more complicated your spacing or bite problem is, and the older you are, the longer the period of treatment, usually. Most patients can count on wearing full braces between 12 and 24 months, followed by the wearing of a retainer to set and align tissues surrounding straightened teeth.

Will treatment be uncomfortable?

The interconnecting wires of traditional braces are tightened at each visit, bearing mild pressure on the brackets or bands to shift teeth or jaws gradually into a desired position. Your teeth and jaws may feel slightly sore after each visit, but the discomfort is brief. Keep in mind also that some teeth may need to be extracted to make room for teeth being shifted with braces and for proper jaw alignment. For patients with aligners, there may be some soreness as your mouth adjusts to each new plastic tray.

Do I have to avoid any foods or personal habits?

Yes. Cut down on sweets, chips and soda. Sugary and starchy foods generate acids and plaque that can cause tooth decay and promote gum disease.

Cut healthy, hard foods like carrots or apples into smaller pieces. Sticky, chewy sweets like caramel can cause wire damage and loosen brackets. Avoid hard and crunchy snacks that can break braces, including popcorn, nuts and hard candy. More don’ts: ice cube chewing, thumb sucking, excessive mouth breathing, lip biting and pushing your tongue against your teeth.

What about home care of my teeth with braces?

With braces, oral hygiene is more important than ever. Braces have tiny spaces where food particles and plaque get trapped. Brush carefully after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly and check your teeth in the mirror to make sure they’re clean. Take time to floss between braces and under wires with the help of a floss threader. Have your teeth cleaned every six months to keep your gums and teeth healthy. Insufficient cleaning while wearing braces can cause enamel staining around brackets or bands.

Who will provide my orthodontic treatment?

Your general dentist is responsible for coordinating your dental treatment, and this could encompass any orthodontic treatment plan, including diagnosis, examinations and some orthodontic procedures. Your dentist may, however, refer you to an orthodontist ? a specialist trained in the development, prevention and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite and jaws and related facial abnormalities.

Reviewed: January 2012

Source: http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=O&iid=322&aid=1304

New Guidelines for Periodontitis Care

Periodontitis is defined as “inflammation of the tissue around the teeth, often causing shrinkage of the gums and loosening of the teeth.” It is a serious gum infection that actually destroys the bone that supports your teeth. It is serious but also something that is unfortunately very common. It can all be prevented with good oral hygiene. Brushing, flossing, mouth rinse and regular dental checkups are essential. The ADA has now issued new guidelines for treating periodontitis.
The July 2015 issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association features new ADA clinical practice guidelines and a supporting systematic review regarding the nonsurgical treatment of chronic periodontitis by scaling and root planing (SRP) with or without adjuncts. 
The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs convened a panel of experts to conduct a systemic review of evidence, resulting in the guidelines.
“Practitioners are confronted with many options for treatment interventions in caring for their patients,” said Dr. Chris Smiley, lead author of the panel. “These guidelines allow clinicians to contrast anticipated outcomes in making care choices that most benefit patients.”
The panel concluded that conventional scaling and root planing should be considered for the initial treatment for patients with chronic periodontitis.
Furthermore, the new guidelines and review reiterate that the value of providing adjunctive therapies in conjunction with SRP must be carefully considered in tailoring individual care recommendations for patients, as few may enhance results beyond what is achieved through SRP alone, Dr. Smiley said.
 
Read more at: 

http://bit.ly/1Th1II3

To Keep Your Heart Healthy, Brush and Floss!

It has been drilled into our heads (and for good reason) that regular brushing and flossing leads to a healthier mouth but new evidence shows that a healthy mouth also means a healthy heart. In case there wasn’t already enough reason to have good oral hygiene, more and more studies are showing that having a healthy mouth is good for your whole body.

After two months of boarding, my dogs were released from jail to join our family. The fire had left us without the ability to manage animals in our tiny temporary hotel. Really, I should not refer to their boarding facility as a jail. They enjoyed two acres and a bone-shaped wading pool. My husband paid extra for the daily doggie-ice cream treats. But there were consequences. We did not pay extra for the dogs’ standard daily tooth brushing and now their teeth look terrible. I immediately resumed their daily brushing routine.

Many years ago, a veterinarian’s wife emphasized the connection between heart and dental health. She expressed her frustration that many pet owners don’t care for their animals’ teeth and gums. Our conversation propelled me to more regularly engage patients about their dental health and to start better caring for my own animals.

A stickler for tooth brushing (ask my teens), I am surprised that many people do not brush or floss regularly. At a child’s physical exam, we regularly encourage twice daily brushing. Although I might be stretching my luck, older children also are advised to pull out the dental floss and start using it daily.

Poor health hygiene can result in loss of gum health and structural bone support. The World Health Organization reports 10-20 percent of people worldwide have severe dental disease and nearly 40 percent has moderate disease. One study found that people who brushed their teeth less often had a 70 percent increased risk of heart disease compared to those with strict oral hygiene habits.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/1Ru3eJm

12 Reasons to Drink More Water!

With humans being comprised mostly of water, it is crazy to think about how much water is needed to stay hydrated. Not many people are truly aware of just how much being hydrated affects your health and wellbeing. Check out these twelve reasons to start drinking more water now!

It doesn’t take much to become dehydrated. Lose just 1.5% of the water in your body (the human body is usually about 60% H2O), and you’ve reached the tipping point of mild dehydration. It can be brought on by many things-and it can do much more to your body than just make you feel thirsty. Dehydration also brings on health effects ranging from fatigue and smelly breath to more dangerous consequences like distracted driving.

It gives you bad breath

It’s easy to forget to drink water during a busy workday, but at the end of the day you may find people standing unusually far from you when you open your mouth. “Dehydration can give you bad breath,” says Marshall Young, DDS, a dentist in Newport Beach, Calif. “Saliva has important antibacterial properties. When dehydrated, the decreased saliva in the mouth allows bacteria to thrive, resulting in bad breath.” So drink up for your own sake, and for those around you as well.

It makes you crave sugar

Dehydration can mask itself as hunger, particularly sugar cravings. This may happen particularly if you’ve been exercising, says Amy Goodson, RD, sports dietitian for the Dallas Cowboys. “When you exercise in a dehydrated state, you use glycogen (stored carbohydrate) at a faster rate, thus diminishing your stores more quickly.” So once you finish exercising, you will likely crave carbs to help you replenish those glycogen levels and get you ready for your next exercise bout.

It wrecks your workout

Even being slightly dehydrated affects your ability to put effort into your workout. “A 2% dehydration level in your body causes a 10% decrease in athletic performance,” says Goodson. “And the more dehydrated you become, the worse performance gets.” Measured by “perceived exertion,” how hard you feel you’re exercising, you might be working at a 6 but you feel like you are working at an 8, says Goodson.

Smile

Being unable to smile because of embarrassment of the look of your teeth is a horrible experience that is all too common considering the technology and level of care that is now available. Many people claim that they have put off going to the dentist because of fear and cost. This is incredibly unfortunate as we all deserve to feel confident enough to smile.

Fifteen years ago this spring, Surgeon General David Satcher issued a call to action to address what he called America’s “silent epidemic”–the growing incidence of dental disease in this country.

Unfortunately, we as a nation have not made much progress over the last decade and a half. Just last weekend, thousands of people lined up to get charity dental care at the California state fairgrounds in Sacramento. Some had spent the night waiting in line.

Similar events will be held from coast to coast in the coming months, including at the Wise County, Virginia, fairgrounds near where I grew up. Seeing thousands of people waiting hours in the rain to get free dental and medical care in barns and animal stalls a few years ago changed my life. I realized that some of those people could have been relatives. I quit my job a few months later to become a patient advocate.

In his landmark 2000 report, “Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General,” Satcher wrote that while the United States had made great strides in other areas to improve the health of Americans, “there are profound and consequential disparities in the oral health of our citizens.”

Those disparities persist, according to a survey conducted by Wakefield Research and released last week by the Children’s Dental Health Project, a Washington-based independent nonprofit organization. Not only that, but lack of access to affordable dental care has spread to the middle class.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, there are initiatives in three states that are making a difference, and advocates in Vermont are hoping their state will become the fourth this year.

Nearly four of 10 adults surveyed said either they or a family member had delayed seeing a dentist during the last year because of the out-of-pocket costs they would have had to pay. And a third of those adults said they or a family member currently have a toothache or other problem with their teeth or gums that should be addressed.

The CDHP survey showed that, as in 2000, members of racial and ethnic minorities continue to suffer disproportionally.

Thirty-four percent of blacks and 36 percent of Hispanics said their teeth are in such bad shape that they’re embarrassed to let others see them.

It is not just the poor who are now foregoing regular dental care. The researchers found that a surprisingly large number of relatively affluent Americans said they, too, are self-conscious about their teeth.

One in five of those surveyed with annual incomes of $75,000 or higher answered “yes” when asked if they “sometimes avoid smiling or do other things that make it harder for people to see what your teeth look like.”

When asked if during the past 12 months they or another family member had delayed seeing a dentist because of the out-of-pocket costs they’d have to pay, 26 percent of people making $75,000 or more said they had. Also answering “yes” to that question were 38 percent of people with household incomes of $35,000 to $74,999, and almost half (46 percent) of people with incomes of less than $35,000.

The problem of lack of access to dental care affects every state, from the largest to the smallest.

A December 2014 report by the California state auditor found that more than half of the children enrolled in that state’s program for low-income children (Denti-Cal) were not getting regular dental care. It also found that 32 of California’s 58 counties have dental access problems because of a shortage of dentists.

On the other side of the country, the Vermont Department of Health recently estimated that low-income children in that state are more than twice as likely to experience untreated tooth decay. As a consequence, many of them wind up in hospital emergency rooms–the most expensive place to get care–when the pain becomes unbearable. The state’s Medicaid program reported spending $2.5 million of taxpayers’ dollars annually to treat emergency tooth decay problems for children under the age of 6.

As in California, Vermont officials and healthcare providers say there simply are not enough dentists to meet the need, or at least not enough who are willing to see Medicaid patients.

“I can tell you that access to oral health care is the single largest problem facing our patients,” Peter Youngbaer, director of the People’s Health and Wellness Clinic in Barre, told Vermont Public Radio in February. He said that 44 percent of the patients who visited the clinic in 2014 had not seen a dentist in at least five years. Many of them said they had never seen a dentist.

To alleviate the problem, several patient and consumer advocacy groups are hoping Vermont will follow Maine’s lead in permitting mid-level dental providers to practice in the state. Maine last year became the third state in which mid-level dental therapists can practice. Alaska and Minnesota are the other two so far.

The Vermont Technical College plans to offer a program to train dental therapists, who would work under the general supervision of a dentist and provide a limited scope of services, ranging from preventive care to simple extractions and fillings.

Beth Nolan of Voices for Vermont’s Children told Vermont Public Radio that her organization supports expanding the dental workforce because efforts to recruit more dentists to treat low-income patients have not been successful.

“Without an alternative workforce model for dentistry, low-income patients will continue to be denied access to care,” she said.

Satcher agrees. He has joined a growing number of healthcare professionals advocating for expanding the dental workforce throughout the United States.

“States should explore all options that could expand access to care,” he wrote in a commentary, “including allowing midlevel dental providers such as dental therapists to practice.”

Author’s Note: This blog post is part of a series examining America’s oral healthcare crisis. Be sure to read the previous post, “Why I’m OK Having a Mid-Level Dental Practitioner Work on My Teeth.”

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendell-potter/why-growing-numbers-of-am_b_6985694.html

You and Your Teeth Are What You Eat

Diet is a huge factor to oral health that is often overlooked. There are many simple changes that can be made to fight tooth decay and gingivitis. There are certain foods and drinks that are best to avoid and others that can help. Be sure to read the article to find out exactly what you should do to improve your diet and oral health.

You may be able to prevent two of the most common diseases of modern civilization, tooth decay (caries) and periodontal (gum) disease, simply by improving your diet. Decay results when the teeth and other hard tissues of the mouth are destroyed by acid products from oral bacteria. Certain foods and food combinations are linked to higher levels of cavity-causing bacteria. Although poor nutrition does not directly cause periodontal disease, many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is more severe in patients whose diet does not supply the necessary nutrients.

Poor nutrition affects the entire immune system, thereby increasing susceptibility to many disorders. People with lowered immune systems have been shown to be at higher risk for periodontal disease. Additionally, research shows a link between oral health and systemic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So eating a variety of foods as part of a well-balanced diet may not only improve your dental health, but increasing fiber and vitamin intake may also reduce the risk of other diseases.

How can I plan my meals and snacks to promote better oral health?

Eat a well-balanced diet characterized by moderation and variety. Develop eating habits that follow the recommendations from reputable health organizations such as the American Dietetic Association and the National Institutes of Health. Choose foods from the five major food groups: fruits, vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products and meat, chicken, fish or beans. Avoid fad diets that limit or eliminate entire food groups, which usually result in vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Always keep your mouth moist by drinking lots of water. Saliva protects both hard and soft oral tissues. If you have a dry mouth, supplement your diet with sugarless candy or gum to stimulate saliva.

Foods that cling to your teeth promote tooth decay. So when you snack, avoid soft, sweet, sticky foods such as cakes, candy and dried fruits. Instead, choose dentally healthy foods such as nuts, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese and sugarless gum or candy.

When you eat fermentable carbohydrates, such as crackers, cookies and chips, eat them as part of your meal, instead of by themselves. Combinations of foods neutralize acids in the mouth and inhibit tooth decay. For example, enjoy cheese with your crackers. Your snack will be just as satisfying and better for your dental health. One caution: malnutrition (bad nutrition) can result from too much nourishment as easily as too little. Each time you eat, you create an environment for oral bacteria to develop. Additionally, studies are showing that dental disease is just as related to overeating as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and hypertension. So making a habit of eating too much of just about anything, too frequently, should be avoided.

When should I consult my dentist about my nutritional status?

Always ask your dentist if you’re not sure how your nutrition (diet) may affect your oral health. Conditions such as tooth loss, pain or joint dysfunction can impair chewing and are often found in elderly people, those on restrictive diets and those who are undergoing medical treatment. People experiencing these problems may be too isolated or weakened to eat nutritionally balanced meals at a time when it is particularly critical. Talk to your dental health professional about what you can do for yourself or someone you know in these circumstances.

Reviewed: January 2012

Source: http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=N&iid=315&aid=1274