Cavities and other oral health problems have been called a silent epidemic in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans made about 500 million dental visits and spent an estimated $102 billion on dental services in 2009. Yet many children and adults still go without regular dental services and other measures that can prevent oral diseases.

In South Carolina, low-income families are especially at risk for dental and oral health problems. About half of all cavities go untreated among low-income children. Untreated cavities may cause pain, dysfunction, school absence, underweight, and poor appearance — problems that can greatly affect a child's success in life. They can also lead to other health problems like sinus or gum infections, toothache, and tooth loss.

Almost all oral diseases can be prevented. The goal is to stop dental and oral problems before they start. When you learn how to keep your mouth, gums and teeth healthy, you can prevent problems before they become painful or affect other parts of your body. See a dentist at least once a year to have your teeth cleaned and checked. The dentist will also check the health of your mouth and gums. You should also see a dentist if you have problems like bleeding or pain with your teeth or gums.

Taking care of your mouth, teeth and gums is an important part of your overall health. Everyone, from children to seniors, needs to have good dental care habits.

Many things can affect the health of your mouth:

  • Diet
  • Tobacco use in any form: cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco
  • Drugs
  • Chewing on hard things like pencils, hard candy or ice
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Athletic accidents: backyard or organized sports

Your dental health is also connected to other diseases or conditions you might have such as diabetes and heart disease. Even the medicines you take can affect your dental health.

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Written by: Judi Berry, B.F.A.
Reviewed by: Michael J. Engel, D.M.D.
Last Modified: Thursday September 26, 2019 9:09 AM