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Dental Procedures

Aug 29

The mouth is a window to the health of the entire body and can reveal signs of poor nutrition, infections and diseases that can spread throughout the body. Oral health includes the teeth, bones and tissues of the mouth and jaw (oral cavity), as well as the tongue, inner lining of the lips and cheeks, roof and floor of the mouth, salivary glands, tonsils and adenoids (immune system) and pharynx (throat).

Teeth healthcare is an important part of overall well-being and can be influenced by many factors including diet, tobacco use, oral hygiene, and routine dental care visits. The good news is that healthy habits can help prevent and treat many common oral health problems such as tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer.

Oral health touches every aspect of one’s life, from social interaction and self-esteem to ability to work and play. It is integral to overall health and support individuals in achieving their full potential. Oral health, which varies over the life course, can be easily improved through daily actions such as brushing and flossing, regular visits to a dentist and using a mouthguard during sports to protect against injuries and dental issues.

The world’s people have a right to adequate and equitable access to high-quality oral health services, as a necessary component of comprehensive primary health care. However, the quality of oral health services varies widely across countries and regions, with many low-income populations and members of racial/ethnic minority, immigrant, and rural populations having suboptimal access to oral care. In addition, health services for the homeless and homebound, as well as for the elderly, are often severely limited.

It is increasingly recognized that oral and general health are closely linked. For example, chronic oral infections and inflammations such as gum disease are associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and preterm and low-weight births. These conditions also may indicate underlying systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and systemic lupus erythematous.

Several strategies can be used to improve health care delivery for individuals with limited access to oral health services. At the provider level, interventions are needed to (a) demonstrate that team-based care can be delivered by incorporating oral health core clinical competencies into the existing scope of practice for frontline primary health care providers who care for vulnerable populations in safety net settings, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurses; (b) address barriers to providing integrated care, such as separate insurance systems and incompatible electronic medical records; and (c) increase the focus of health care organization leaders on oral health equity.

Oral health can be improved by practicing daily oral hygiene, avoiding excess sugary foods and beverages, and visiting a dentist for twice-yearly cleanings and examinations. In addition, children should receive dental treatment by their first birthday, and all adults should have access to comprehensive preventive and restorative oral health services. The federal Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) A Healthy Mouth for Every Body campaign offers a variety of materials to help Americans make the best choices for their dental health.