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Many adults care for their teeth using habits that were formed early in childhood. It is important to be sure those habits are good ones. As we age, our teeth and mouths can develop very different needs. Gum disease, dry mouth, oral cancer and tooth decay can become issues with negative effects on our overall health.
According to the Journal of the American Dental Association “the mouth is a window into the health of the body.” Our mouths also can reveal the first signs of disease within our bodies.
October is National Dental Hygiene Month.
The best way to find out what specific oral health needs we have and how best to treat them is to visit a dentist on a regular basis. A dentist and dental hygienist can provide instructions on how to best care for teeth and prevent infection and tooth decay in the future.
The following are basic tips for taking care of adult teeth.
Even with good oral hygiene certain problems, such as oral cancer, can occur. The majority of cases of oral cancer have been linked to the use of tobacco, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Oral cancer has a high rate of being cured in its early stages, however, if the cancer is not found early, it spreads to other parts of the body and becomes more difficult to treat.
Signs and symptoms of oral cancer include sores in the mouth that do not heal; lumps on the lip or in the mouth or throat; white or red patches on the gums, tongue or lining of the mouth; unusual bleeding, pain or numbness in the mouth; sore throats that do not go away or a feeling that something is caught in the throat; difficulty or pain with chewing or swallowing.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to bring it to the attention of your dentist, dental hygienist or physician.
Another oral health problem that can lead to health issues in the body is periodontal disease or gum disease. This is an infection in the gums and bone that surround the teeth. Approximately 80 percent of American adults have some form of periodontal disease and the majority does not realize it because it’s usually painless in early stages, according to the American Dental Hygiene Association.
Warning signs of periodontal disease include bad breath or bad taste that won’t go away, red or swollen gums, tender or bleeding gums, painful chewing, loose teeth, sensitive teeth, gums that have pulled away from your teeth, any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite and any change in the fit of partial dentures.
If you notice any of these symptoms it is important to see a dental professional.
Taking care of our mouth and teeth is a lifelong commitment. It is never too late to develop good oral hygiene habits. Not only will you be healthier, you also will set a great example for any young children or grandchildren who are watching. If you have not been to a dentist recently, make an appointment to discuss what specific needs you have and how to prevent painful and costly problems down the road.
For more information about dental health, call the Hardin County Health Department at (270) 765-6196 or the Radcliff Health Center at (270) 352-2526. You also can visit the American Dental Association website, www.ada.org, or the American Dental Hygienists Association at www.adha.org.
Donny Gill is a health educator at the Hardin County Health Department. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.