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Guest Column: A healthy smile lasts a lifetime

by Molly Strom
| October 13, 2009 12:00 AM

Good oral health practices are important at any age. Beginning with infancy and continuing until you are a senior, there are certain techniques to focus on along the way, which greatly affect overall health.

The Northwest Community Health Center Dental Clinic has decided to increase public awareness about the necessity of proper oral health care for the whole family. October is National Dental Hygiene Month, focusing on the entire family's oral health by stressing that “A Healthy Smile Lasts a

Lifetime.”

Prevention of early childhood caries is a simple and essential way to maintain your child's oral health. Dental decay, more commonly known as cavities, affects 50 percent of children by middle adolescence making it the most common chronic childhood disease. Establishing good oral hygiene routines early is essential for children's oral health. Dental hygienists are valuable in helping families develop and maintain these routines.

Teenagers face additional challenges to maintaining good oral health. An increase in consumption of soda pop, both regular and diet equals an increase in cavities. Even sports drinks are harmful to our teeth. Children and teens playing sports need mouth guards to prevent both injuries to their teeth and serious head injuries. Oral piercings are rising in popularity with teenagers, but they come with a risk. Oral piercings increase the risk for infections in the mouth, and they can damage teeth and gum tissue. Regular visits with a dental hygienist can help older children maintain a healthy smile.

Maintaining a healthy mouth assists adults in achieving good over-all health. Studies have shown a close relationship between periodontal disease and increasing problems for diabetics. Also, poor oral health has been recently associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease. The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, and a healthy smile means much more than just white teeth. Adults should visit regularly with their dental hygienist for tips on keeping their teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

Even patients with partial or full dentures need regular dental checkups. Dentures and partials need to be cleaned to prevent the harmful buildup of bacteria, plaque, and tartar – just like natural teeth. Also, a tissue exam should be completed for the early detection of tissue infections and oral cancers.

“Dental Hygienists are excellent resources for providing oral health care throughout a lifetime and helping patients attain a daily oral hygiene routine,” said Holly Haugen, NWCHC's dental coordinator. “Whether getting off on the right foot with an infant’s care or improving oral health care for seniors, it's never too late to encourage a healthy mouth.”

The dental hygiene profession was founded in 1913. Today, there are more than 150,000 registered dental hygienists across the United States who provide professional oral health care to help people maintain healthy smiles and bodies.

Please schedule an appointment with your dental hygienist soon for every member of your family. 

Remember, “A Healthy Smile Lasts a Lifetime.”

(Molly Strom is a registered dental hygienist at Northwest Community Health Center in Libby. The health center’s dental clinic recently expanded to include two dentists, two hygienists and three dental assistants).