Dental Services for Whole Family
Good oral health allows people to carry out the basic functions of life: eating, sleeping, communicating, and smiling. It is also important for overall health, including physical and mental well-being. Oral diseases like tooth decay, gum disease and mouth cancer are common and often have serious effects on a person’s quality of life. However, they are preventable with regular dental care and treatment.
Achieving the Healthy People 2020 targets related to oral health will require a coordinated effort by federal, tribal and state governments, as well as local communities and organizations. Laws and policies can help address many of the obstacles that hinder access to oral health care. Strategies can include:
The most effective strategy is to increase access to dental care, particularly preventive services. Regular preventive dental visits can catch problems when they are small and easier to treat. However, many people do not get regular dental care, partly because they don’t know where to go for help and often cannot afford it.
Providing affordable dental insurance coverage is one way to improve access. Another strategy is to expand the role of non-traditional providers who can provide oral health care, such as physicians, nurses and community health workers. These health professionals can work with traditional oral health providers to provide a more comprehensive approach to oral health care. The federal government can help by supporting the training of new health professions and allowing the use of non-traditional providers to deliver oral health care.
In addition, states can encourage communities to adopt and implement policies that promote best practices for oral health, such as establishing fluoride guidelines. The health benefits of fluoride are well documented and are especially critical for children, adolescents and some adults with certain chronic health conditions.
Oral diseases are linked to a host of other health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, and inflammatory conditions such as endocarditis and periodontitis. These connections are based on the fact that bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and infect other parts of the body, such as the heart and lungs. Additionally, some diseases, such as HIV and AIDS, lower the body’s resistance to infection, making it more likely that germs in the mouth can spread to other areas of the body.
To maintain healthy teeth, brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily to remove any food particles that might cause cavities. Also, eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks. Regular dental exams and cleanings are also important. If you don’t have dental insurance, contact your local public health department for financial assistance programs. In addition, some states have oral health coalitions that share information and resources and can assist in locating free or low-cost dental and oral health services. Find a coalition near you by visiting the American Network of Oral Health Coalitions. In addition, if you are a senior with Medicare, call your state’s Medicaid program to learn about the dental services it provides.