COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT ORAL HEALTH:
Why is oral health so important?
- Oral health can affect both physical and emotional well-being as it can impact appearance, interpersonal relations, diet, nutrition, and speech.
- Oral health and general health go hand in hand. The mouth can reflect signs and symptoms of health and disease and the relationship of oral health to general health is often overlooked.
What can I do to prevent tooth decay?
- Drinking fluoridated water helps prevent tooth decay. Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel.
- Using toothpaste with fluoride can help your teeth resist decay.
- Sealants can also help prevent decay. Sealants are a thin plastic coating that is painted on the grooves and pits found in teeth.
- Parents should ask their dental provider about fluoride and sealants for children.
How often should I brush my teeth?
- Teeth should be brushed at least twice a day, once in the morning and once before bedtime. (2 minutes of brushing is recommended.)
- Brushing should be more frequent after meals, snacks, and sugary beverages.
- Brushing and flossing regularly helps remove plaque, which prevents gum disease and cavities, and also reduces bad breath.
- If you cannot brush, rinse mouth with water or chew sugar free gum with xylitol.
What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?
The following symptoms are the most common symptoms of gum disease:
- Red, swollen, tender gums;
- Bleeding while brushing;
- Receding gums;
- Loose teeth; and/or
- Persistent odorous breath
Consult your dentist for a diagnosis.
How does nutrition affect my oral health?
- Establishing good oral hygiene and a healthy diet is essential to achieving and maintaining overall well-being throughout life.
- Eating a nutritious and low sugar diet is a sure way to maintain good oral health. Foods high in sugar and starch mix with the bacteria (plaque) in the mouth to form acid that eats away at teeth.
- A few easy ways to reduce the risk of cavities through diet include eating less sugar, incorporating calcium into diets, and snacking less between meals.
- Diets high in vitamin C and fresh fruits and vegetables can also help prevent oral cancer.
- For more information on oral health and nutrition, visit the Nutrition Wellness Program web site.
Are baby teeth important?
- Baby teeth are very important.They are critical for eating, talking, and saving space for permanent teeth.
- If baby teeth become decayed, it can lead to pain and infection and this can affect a child’s ability to learn, speak, and eat.
Since baby teeth are important, when should children start seeing a dental provider?
- Children should start seeing a dental provider by age one, or when the first baby tooth appears. This gives the dental provider a chance to educate parents about oral health care.
- By taking care of teeth at an early age, children can keep their teeth healthy for a lifetime.
Where can I find a dentist for my children that will accept Medicaid, or that offers a sliding fee scale?
Please see "Dental Services in Marin" page.
What are dental sealants?
- Dental sealants are a plastic material placed on the pits and fissures of the chewing surfaces of teeth where up to 90 percent of decay occurs in school children.
- Sealants prevent tooth decay by creating a barrier between the teeth and decay-causing bacteria.
- Sealants also stop cavities from growing and can prevent the need for expensive fillings.
- The combination of sealants and fluoride has the potential to nearly eliminate tooth decay in school age children.
What can I do about dental emergencies?
The most important thing to do is to call your dentist!
- If a tooth is broken or chipped, clean the injured area with warm water.
- If swelling begins, use cold packs on the outside of the face.
- If a tooth is knocked out, carefully pick the tooth up by its biting surface and place it in cold milk or water. Go to a dental provider immediately.
- For a toothache, rinse the mouth with warm water. Apply a cold pack to the outside of the face, if swelling occurs, and call your dental provider.
What is Marin County doing to combat the epidemic of dental disease in children?
- Oral disease is a significant problem in Marin County. The County of Marin Community Health and Prevention Program has coordinated an oral health program which focuses on prevention, education and increasing access to dental care for our community. In addition, First 5 of Marin, in collaboration with Health and Human Services, has helped fund a project called the Children’s Oral Health Project, which provides dental screening and oral health education to low-income children in preschools and day care sites county-wide.
- The Marin County Oral Health Advisory Committee meets quarterly to provide advisory review on matters related to planning and implementing the oral health needs of the community. The Committee provides guidance on priority areas, advocacy, public education, and strategic communications.
- The Marin County Dental Society has implemented a successful program called the Adopt-A-School which sends volunteer dentists into County elementary schools to do dental screenings and prevention education for school aged children.
- Marin County Health & Human Services continues to promote county-wide community water fluoridation, including efforts to extend fluoridation to areas in Novato and West Marin which lack water fluoridation.
How does smoking affect my teeth and oral health?
- The use of tobacco products can result in serious oral health problems. Many are already aware that tobacco products are linked to several chronic diseases, such as lung cancer and emphysema.
- Using tobacco also puts people at significantly higher risk for oral cancer and periodontal disease.
- For individuals concerned about their appearance, tobacco use is also associated with bad breath, stained teeth and bleeding gums.
For more information on tobacco use, see Fact Sheets from Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.