World Oral Health Day is celebrated every year on the 20th March, aiming to highlight the connection between oral health and general health. It is organised by The FDI World Dental Federation.
Take care of your oral health to protect your mouth and body
It’s never too early or too late to start looking after your oral health. Many people don’t realise that you should take your child to the dentist when the first tooth comes through. Baby teeth are really important, as are developing healthy attitudes free from fear towards the dentist and oral health. See our previous blog on baby teeth here.
Make going to the dentist fun!
There are three main themes of the FDI campaign:
Take good care of your oral health at home
The things you do every day have the biggest impact on your oral health. It’s no use ferociously flossing for a week before your next dental check-up, trying to undo the past 23 weeks of not flossing. Developing consistent daily habits are the key.
- Brush 2 times per day for 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste (time yourself on your phone, or use the length of a favourite song).
- Clean between your teeth daily – use floss and/or interdental brushes like Tepes or Piksters.
- Remember to brush your tongue.
Your dentist may recommend a mouthwash. These can be good short-term for some acute problems like inflamed gums or mouth ulcers, or used daily for those with a high decay rate (fluoride mouthwashes) or gum disease.
Diet, Alcohol and Tobacco
Eat a healthy diet, particularly one low in sugar, avoid tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption
We’ve already written a lot about diet and sugar. But what about smoking and alcohol?
Smoking will increase your risk of gum disease and other diseases of the soft tissues of the mouth, including oral cancer. The risk of developing oral cancer increases with smoking and alcohol consumption. Head and neck cancer is the 7th most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia (1). Oral cancer includes cancers of the lips, tongue, gum, mouth and salivary glands. Head and neck cancers include these, plus cancers of the tonsils, pharynx, nasal cavity and larynx.
The estimated number of new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed in 2018 in Australia was 5,091 (1).
In 2016, head and neck cancer was the 15th leading cause of cancer death in Australia (1).
A healthy lifestyle is important for your overall health.
There are a number of risk factors associated with head and neck cancers. The main risk factors are alcohol consumption and tobacco.
Around 50% of mouth cancers in Australia are caused by smoking. Around 31% by excess alcohol (2).
Other risk factors include:
- Oral hygiene – poor oral health including gum disease have been linked to cancers of the oral cavity
- Viruses including the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the Epstein-Barr virus
- Age – head and neck cancer is more common in people over 40 years old
- Men are three times more likely than women in Australia to develop head and neck cancer
- Sun exposure (cancers of the lip) (2)
Have regular dental check-ups
Did you know that when you have a dental check-up, your dentist is not just checking your teeth? They’ll ask about your general health, and look at your gums and the soft tissues of your mouth. They may also check your jaw joints. This overall holistic approach to dental care is important as so many things affect your oral health, and your oral health affects the rest of your body. Read more about this here.
Your dentist will have a careful look at the soft tissues lining your mouth as well as your lips and tongue. This is because oral cancer can show up in variety of ways from an ulcer that’s not healing, to a slightly different texture or colour of the tissue. This is one reason why regular dental check-ups are so crucial. Even if you don’t have any teeth!
The best feeling – getting the thumbs up
after your check-up.
Your dentist will also check for gum disease, which again may go undetected by you. The attachment from the tooth to the gum can disappear painlessly and the first thing you may notice is teeth that are drifting or getting loose. If you want to read more about gum disease, re-visit our blog here.
Finally, the teeth! Tooth decay can be very small when it starts and if picked up early can potentially be reversed (more coming in a future blog), or at least repaired when it is smaller, easier and therefore cheaper to fix. Another reason for regular dental check-ups!
If you Act on Mouth Health it will have a positive impact on your general health and well-being.
(1) Cancer Australia – https://head-neck-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics
(2) Cancer Council Australia – https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/mouth-cancer.html