Your oral health is an important part of your overall health. Research shows there may be a link between oral disease and other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as pre-term and low-birth-weight babies. Researchers are just beginning to understand this link, but evidence is mounting that a healthy mouth is an important part of a healthy life.
As part of a healthy lifestyle and to reduce the risk of oral disease, here are a few oral health care tips from the Canadian Dental Association.
- Maintain good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day to remove plaque and bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. If you don't floss, you are missing more than one-third (1/3) of your tooth surface.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Healthy food is good for your general and oral health. Without the nutrients that come from foods, your teeth and gums cannot fight cavities and gum disease. Avoid excess sugar, as it is one of the main causes of dental problems.
- Check your gums regularly. Look for warning signs of gum disease such as red, shiny, puffy, sore or sensitive gums; bleeding when you brush or floss; or bad breath that won't go away. Report any of these warning signs to your dentist. Gum disease is one of the main reasons why adults lose their teeth.
- Don't smoke. You are probably aware that tobacco can cause heart disease and a variety of cancers. What you may not know is that tobacco use is a major cause of tooth loss through gum disease and may lead to serious problems like oral cancer.
- See your dentist regularly. Regular checkups and professional cleanings are the best way to prevent problems from getting worse. Only your dentist has the training, skills and expertise to identify and address all your oral health care needs.
When detected early, the survival rate of oral cancer is about 80 per cent. Surprisingly only about 35 per cent of oral cancers are diagnosed in the early stages when the disease has the highest cure rate. Most early signs of oral cancer are difficult to detect without a thorough head and neck examination by a dentist. Today that's why oral cancer assessments are included as a part of the routine exam done by your dentist. Early detection is key to prevention. Know the risk factors and warning signs, and talk to your dentist about your oral health and well-being.
You are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer if:
- You use tobacco products
- Drink excessive amounts of alcohol
- Work outside in the sun
- Are a male over 50
- Have bad habits of excessive lip biting and chewing
- Have ill-fitting dentures
Know the early warning signs for oral cancer and talk to your dentist if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Sores on the neck, face or mouth that do not heal after two weeks
- Swelling or lumps on the lips, tongue, gums or other areas inside the mouth
- Persistent sore throat and pain in the ear or jaw
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking
- White, red or dark patches in the mouth
- Repeated bleeding in the mouth
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in the area of the mouth and neck
If you find anything out of the ordinary, particularly something that does not heal or go away after two weeks, discuss it with your dentist. Remember, oral health is a lifelong commitment that consists of good oral health routines and regular visits to your dentist.
This information was supplied by News Canada