March is here, and it’s time for the big day. No, not St. Patrick’s Day: It’s World Oral Health Day! The FDI World Dental Federation, representing over one million dentists worldwide, commemorates each March 20th in honor of everyone’s mouth—and how to keep it healthy.
So why give your oral cavity its own day? For a very good reason: A healthy mouth is the key to a healthy body and a happy life. Diseases like tooth decay or gum disease don’t just ruin your teeth and gums (or that winning smile of yours)—they can contribute to decreased nutrition, opportunistic infections and systemic inflammation. The latter is a huge factor in diabetes, heart disease and similar health conditions.
World Oral Health Day isn’t just about highlighting what can rob you of a healthy mouth. It’s primarily about taking action—the things you and we can do to maintain and improve your oral health. Here are a few basics that can go a long way in keeping your teeth and gums healthy for life.
Keep up a good oral hygiene habit. Dental plaque is the primary engine of dental disease. This thin film that builds up on teeth is the main source of food and lodging for disease-causing bacteria. We know you have a hectic schedule, but all it takes is 5 minutes a day to effectively remove accumulated plaque. That includes brushing AND flossing—the latter removes plaque between teeth your brush can’t reach.
Schedule regular dental visits. Even with excellent oral hygiene, you will develop tartar. Tartar is just as important in causing disease and is impossible to remove by brushing and flossing alone. That’s why at least every six months you need a professional dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar you might have missed. It’s also a good time for us to check your teeth and gums for signs of decay or gum infection.
Make lifestyle changes. What you put in your mouth could raise or lower your risk for disease. A healthy mouth starts with a healthy, tooth-friendly diet: less (or no) added sugar, more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy. You’ll also improve your mouth health if you abstain from tobacco products (both smoking and smokeless) and only drink alcohol in moderation.
Investing in your mouth with daily hygiene, regular dental visits and healthy lifestyle practices will pay dividends now and in the future. It really doesn’t take much, but these simple things could boost your oral health—and your health in general.