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Good oral health and hygiene begin with clean teeth, proper dental care habits, and awareness of daily behaviors. Brushing and flossing properly from a young age helps prevent oral disease—such as cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer—as you age. Nutrition, regular teeth cleanings, and your medical history also impact your oral health standing.
Your oral health affects your overall health (and vice versa).
If you do not practice good oral hygiene, you are at a higher risk of developing serious oral conditions and diseases. These diseases include cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, bruxism-related conditions, cracked tooth syndrome, and more.
If your mouth is healthy, it is easier to smell, taste, chew, swallow, speak, and smile.
There are many oral conditions that affect both children and adults. Some conditions are minor, while others can result in more serious oral health complications over time.
Common oral conditions include, but are not limited to:
Oral diseases are often more serious than most oral conditions. If left untreated, some diseases can result in tooth loss or permanent damage to the teeth and/or the surrounding structures (e.g., the gums).
Common oral diseases include, but are not limited to:
A healthy mouth is essential for a healthy body. Tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and/or unhealthy diets cause the oral cavity to deteriorate over time. As a result, your general health will also be at risk. General health conditions can also worsen your oral health standing. Common risk factors associated with poor oral health include:
To reduce the chance of developing a minor or serious oral condition, staying on top of basic oral care practices is essential. Many people don’t realize they may be flossing or brushing incorrectly, which can also lead to more serious problems down the road:
Brushing at least twice a day is one of the most important oral care habits because it keeps the teeth and mouth healthy. Using a fluoride-based toothpaste also stimulates the gums, which helps prevent gum disease and cavities.
Properly flossing teeth daily helps reduce the chance of cavities forming between teeth. Flossing removes plaque and food in places where toothbrushes can’t reach. Establishing a normal routine reduces the chance of developing cavities and other oral conditions.
Fluoride is a natural mineral found in soil and rocks that helps prevent cavities. Over the last 70 years, small amounts of fluoride have been added to dental materials to help strengthen tooth enamel. The mineral is naturally present in some water supplies around the United States. However, fluoride is also added to many municipal water sources that have naturally low fluoride levels.
Depending on needs and the severity of an oral condition or disease, there are many different dental specialists to choose from:
General dentists are the “go-to” for preventive procedures and treatments. Unlike specialists, general dentists do not specialize in one specific area of dentistry. They offer direct and indirect restorations, fillings, sealants, routine teeth cleanings, x-rays, and fluoride treatment for people of all ages.
Rather than providing a wide range of services, dental specialists focus on one area of dentistry. Specialists include endodontists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, orthodontists, and periodontists.
Pediatric dentists specialize in treating babies and children into adolescence. Babies should begin seeing a pediatric dentist around 1 year of age or within six months of their first tooth eruption. Doing so helps prevent baby tooth decay and cavities.
Emmelin, Nils, and Yngve Zotterman. Oral Physiology Proceedings of the International Symposium Held in Wenner-Gren Center, Stockholm, August 1971. Elsevier Science, 2013.
Moharamzadeh, Keyvan. Diseases and Conditions in Dentistry: an Evidence-Based Reference. Wiley, 2018.
Rogers, Nicola, and Cinzia Pickett. Basic Guide to Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Wiley Blackwell, 2017.
Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.