“Good dental health is a lifetime proposition,” says LHSFNA’s Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck, “but it doesn’t always get the attention or respect it deserves. Often, the neglect starts with the food and drink we consume.”
Today’s diets are laden with sugars and starchy foods. From your teeth’s perspective, sodas are among the worst. Combining with bacteria that exists naturally in your mouth, these foods and beverages form a sticky film that builds up on your teeth in the form of plaque. If left alone, the plaque can turn to tartar, a hard substance that has to be scraped off your teeth by your dentist.
Plaque causes tooth decay as well as periodontal (gum) disease such as gingivitis and periodontitis which can make diabetes harder to control. In addition, people with periodontal disease are twice as likely to have heart disease.
The goal of good oral hygiene is avoiding the hazards of plaque.
- Brush your teeth twice daily, preferably, after breakfast and before bed.
- Floss once a day.
- Visit a dentist every six months for check-ups and cleanings.
Fluoride toothpastes are recommended along with soft bristled brushes. Teeth should be brushed for approximately two minutes to ensure thorough cleaning.
Along with regular dental care at home and regular visits to your dentist, limiting sugared and starchy foods and eliminating tobacco use are highly recommended.
It also is vital to teach and encourage children in proper dental hygiene. Parents should start brushing their children’s teeth as soon as they appear in their mouths, usually around four months. As they get older, children can help with brushing and flossing and will eventually be able to do it on their own. One in four children develops cavities by age four; some cavities appear as early as age two. Children should begin visiting the dentist around their first birthday.
The importance of oral care is acknowledged by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in its designation of dental care for children as an essential benefit that must be provided by all U.S. health care insurance plans. However, PPACA does not require coverage for adult dental care.
Ignoring one’s dental health can lead to serious problems including plaque, cavities, broken and missing teeth, gum disease, toothaches, extractions and the crowns, bridges, root canals, partials and other devices used to correct them. Often, care is expensive.
“Many LIUNA health & welfare plans provide benefits for routine and restorative dental care,” says Borck. “Health plans that provide dental benefits encourage regular check-ups, cleanings and timely interventions when problems arise. Check with your health & welfare fund for information on coverage for dental services.”
More information about dental care is available on these sites: