No, it is not sugary food alone that is responsible for poor oral health in American children, especially in the Appalachian region

No, it is not sugary food alone that is responsible for poor oral health in American children, especially in the Appalachian region

Brushing your teeth is essential to maintaining optimal oral health, but like most aspects of health, the whole story is more complicated.

As managers Oral Health Research Center AppalachianAnd the we I know That disparities exist when it comes to oral health, including children. Some people or groups have more oral health problems than others due to a combination of factors that go beyond personal dental hygiene.

For example, Appalachia—which extends from the northern part of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to the southern part of New York, and includes all of West Virginia—has one of the The biggest burden of oral health problems for an individual in the United States

October is National Dental Hygiene MonthThis provides an opportunity to draw more attention to this chronic and often preventable problem.

Oral health definition

While the terms dental health and dental health focus largely on teeth and gums, Oral health more comprehensive. according to FDI . World Dental FederationOral health includes good functioning of the mouth, including “the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow, and convey a range of emotions through facial expressions” without pain or discomfort. Oral health affects not only a person’s teeth but also Also general well-being and quality of life.

tooth decay It affects children across the United States, but little attention is paid to how much it can be prevented and treated. Cavities, or cavities, are the most common chronic disease in children – five times More common than asthma and seven times more common It is an environmental allergy, although it can be prevented. more than 40% of children suffer from tooth decay When they start kindergarten.

However, people with less formal education or with low incomes, Marginalized Ethnic and Ethnic Groups And those who live in more rural areas, such as the Appalachians, tend to Oral health problems more than othersAnd the at a younger age. The Increased prevalence of dental caries in childhood In specific populations it is not only an injustice but also a serious public health problem. Oral health problems early in life extend into adulthood and can last a lifetime.

Economic status of the county in Appalachia, fiscal 2023.
Appalachian Regional Committee

Beyond personal dental hygiene

It is a common misconception that eating sugary foods and drinks is the only cause of tooth decay. While this is undoubtedly a problem, there is a lot more to good oral health. It includes Regular brushing and flossing; eating healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables; avoid tobacco products; And wear a mouth guard while playing some sports. Regular visits to dental care They are also important, as they provide an opportunity for cleaning and preventive care.

Oral health in children is a A reflection of their general health and their families. However, in addition to behavioral and social influences, other genetic and biological factors also play a role. for example, Genes that influence taste preferences Like sweet foods, they are associated with tooth decay and certain surfaces of the teeth. It’s possible that our taste genes predispose some of us to prefer sweet foods and drinks, which is a risk factor for developing cavities.

Bacteria and other microorganisms in the mouth, known as the oral microbiome, also plays a role. some parts Oral microbiome is beneficial It is even required for good oral health. else bacteria They are invaders that can lead to oral diseases.

Equally important environmental factorsThese include air quality, access to healthy foods, the cost of dental care, access to transportation to and from the dentist, and school programs that encourage good oral hygiene among children. Whether one lives in a community with fluoridated water or has access to fluoride treatments is also important Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. water quality In societies another factor. If the only water available is toxic or unattractive, people may turn to soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

in addition to, Perceived social support of the mother And the Parents’ social networks It can affect their children’s oral health, too. Among mothers with a large number of cavities, availability Someone to talk to about problems It has been shown to be associated with fewer cavities in their babies.

Little girl and dad brushing their teeth together.
Parents can help improve their children’s oral health by providing a good model of oral care for themselves.
Netat Terme/Moment via Getty Images

Good Oral Health Modeling

Oral health of parents and caregivers It greatly affects their children. Children and their parents usually drink the same water, many of the same drinks, and eat a lot of the same foods. Children often follow their parents’ dental hygiene habits, too. Children usually interact with their parents and caregivers Feelings about dental visits Also – whether it’s relief, stress, anxiety, or fear.

Parents’ ideas about dental care influence their decisions about preventive care. Dental fear and anxiety can cause them to delay or avoid dental appointments for themselves and their children. “Oral health valuesThe importance one places on maintaining normal and good-looking teeth influences decision-making about dental health and professional dental care. Depression in parents It can even affect their dental health, oral health, and the health of their children.

Dental problems in children Can lead to truancyPain and embarrassment from visible cavities, missing or crooked teeth. Teeth and gums are essential for speaking, eating, growing, and appearing. They affect social functioning and an individual’s enjoyment of food. Children’s dental problems affect their parents as well, as it can lead to parents unexpectedly missing out on the job to get their children to the dentist.

What can be done to improve oral health?

so far, Dental problems in children can be prevented. Some preventive steps are affected by Economic, educational and healthcare factors. One of the best things parents or caregivers can do is to establish a relationship for their child with a dentist, practitioner, office or clinic to promote prevention but also to provide emergency care if needed. In the world of oral health, this relationship is called “dental home. ” The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Other professional health organizations recommend that children see an oral health provider before age 1 or when the first tooth appears. It is proven that access to dental treatment, especially preventive care Improving oral health in families and their communities.

System-wide changes There is definitely a need too. Since cost affects whether parents can provide routine dental care for their children, increasing access to dental insurance is an important step to ensure equal access and reduce inequality in oral health. Integrate oral health practices into Schools and educational programs Another system-wide change that would benefit all children regardless of their family’s socioeconomic status.

Oral health is a critical factor in an individual’s overall health. Educating children at this early stage can help them develop a healthy smile and take care of their pearly whites throughout their lives.

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