From a young age, we are taught the importance of taking care of our teeth with brushing and flossing to prevent cavities and other painful oral conditions, but poor oral hygiene can lead to more than a toothache. Did you know that your oral health and general health are connected?
Your child’s dental visit can reveal more than just the condition of his or her teeth, it can also provide an insight into overall health. Recent studies show that poor oral health can be associated with several major health conditions. Unhealthy teeth and gums may be warning signs of a far more serious concern than a painful toothache. Fortunately, as members of your child’s oral health care team, we are here to ensure his or her oral health is well managed so that your child’s smile can remain happy and healthy.
How is Oral Health Connected to Your Child’s Overall Wellness?
The mouth is home to millions of bacteria and while most are harmless, poor oral hygiene practices can cause harmful bacteria to overgrow and overwhelm the body’s defense system, increasing the possibility of infections. Certain medications may also affect your child’s oral health. Decongestants and antidepressants may reduce saliva production and increase bacterial levels within the mouth, raising the risk of infection and the possibility for more severe oral health problems.
The mouth is one of the main entry points into the body and without good oral hygiene, harmful bacteria can enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. Studies show that the added bacteria can cause infection and may lead to serious health complications if left untreated.
As dentists, we are well aware of this mouth-and-body connection and are trained to recognize signs of possible underlying health conditions when examining your child’s teeth. In fact, 90% of systemic conditions display oral symptoms. Common conditions associated with poor oral health can include:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Kidney Disease
Other conditions that your dentist can detect may include thyroid conditions, high blood pressure, sleeping disorders, anemia, and eating disorders. It is important to note that though these conditions may occur concurrently, that does not mean that one directly caused the other. Studies also show that conditions that lower your body’s resistance to infection are likely to increase your risk for other health complications including oral health conditions.
Protecting Your Child’s Smile
Be sure to keep your dentist up to date about your child’s health and any medications he or she may be taking as it may affect his or her oral health. To best protect your child’s smile, teach him or her to practice good oral hygiene and the importance of routine dental exams and cleanings throughout the year.
Your child should brush his or her teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes at a 45-degree angle with an ADA-approved toothbrush and toothpaste. Children under the age of 7 may need help brushing their teeth and even once they are older you may need to supervise to ensure they are cleaning their teeth properly. Use a toothbrush that is appropriate in size for your child’s needs. We recommend replacing toothbrushes every three months or once the bristles begin to wear down. Help your child floss at least once a day as flossing works to remove plaque and leftover food from hard-to-reach areas. Using a mouthwash can also help to keep teeth feeling clean and fresh, but be sure it is safe to do so first by asking your child’s dentist.
As your child grows, it is important to set a good foundation of health practices that will last a lifetime. This includes oral health! The best way to help your child’s smile stay healthy and bright is to help him or her establish and follow a good oral hygiene routine. This routine includes attending routine exams and cleanings as our staff is trained to identify and treat oral health conditions and look for signs of concern. For more information about your child’s oral health or to schedule an appointment, please contact Pediatric Dentistry of Palo Alto today.