Health Matters – Brushing Up on Oral Health

They appear on the newsstands each year as surely as spring follows winter: magazines bursting with articles on how to get that vibrant, healthy look in time for the beach.

Healthy recipes, fat-burning workouts, and skincare regimes abound, but the one subject you probably won’t see covered is one that can affect every other aspect of your wellbeing?your oral health.

And with only half of Canadians visiting the dentist regularly, It’s a bigger issue than you may think.

If you need to brush up on the facts (and dispel some of the myths) about oral care, now’s the perfect time.

April is National Oral Health Month, and Walmart, Crest, and Oral-B have teamed up to bring Canadians ?A Better Check-Up,? a program that will be travelling to Walmart stores across the country.

To find out more about ?A Better Check-Up,? we spoke with Leanne Rodine, a Registered Dental Hygienist.

?Oral health is an important piece in our overall health,? Leanne said, and you may be surprised at how closely It’s linked to many serious conditions.

As Leanne explains, ?Research has shown that there may be some links between dental diseases and other health problems. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy may lessen risks of heart disease and stroke, respiratory disease, diabetes, and premature and low birth-weight in babies.?

Most of us probably think that brushing once or twice a day is good enough, but as Leanne points out, ?even when we are practicing a good oral hygiene routine at home, it is important to visit your dental office regularly.?

?Regular dental visits can help you prevent problems as dental health professionals can see areas and conditions in your mouth that you are not able to see or may not feel is a problem and help you address the issue,? she adds. As well, ?dental health professionals can . . . help alert you to other medical conditions that you may be exhibiting signs of through oral manifestations.?

And a quick look in the bathroom mirror definitely won’t tell you the whole story. In fact, one of the biggest misconceptions, Leanne says, ?is that people often believe their mouth is healthy if nothing hurts, but many dental diseases occur without pain as an initial symptom. Often a patient experiences pain only when the problem reaches a severe stage, which is then often more complicated to treat. Even in severe stages, some dental diseases do not cause pain. That is why it is important to get regular check-ups and not just wait until it hurts.?

Some other common myths surrounding oral health?

?A second big misconception,? explains Leanne, ?is that if their gums are bleeding they should stop brushing and flossing?the opposite is true in fact. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss It’s a sign that there has been an accumulation of plaque irritating the gums. We need to get rid of this plaque to stop the irritation and to do that you need to brush and floss the plaque away.?

Another mistaken belief many people have ?is that their mouths and the rest of their bodies do not affect each other.?

Along with the dos, there are some important don’ts to keep in mind?and help make that visit to the dentist a breeze.

For instance, if You’re planning to get oral piercings (or already have them), It’s important to know they ?can cause damage to teeth and gums,? Leanne says, ?and we often encourage people to think twice before getting a piercing.?

She also explains that ?if they decide to proceed, it is very important that they have the procedure done by a qualified person and that they take extra care of their teeth and gums afterward. Tobacco products can also have a negative effect on our mouths?anywhere from bad taste and stained teeth to altered smell and taste, to an increased risk of gum disease.?

And while most of us already know that the things we eat and drink have an impact on our oral health, we may not give much thought to anything beyond the obvious, like candy.

?Many people,? says Leanne, ?are not aware of the amount of liquid sugars they consume in a day. Drinks high in sugar and/or acid can contribute to poor oral health and overall health. Even foods that do not taste sweet can cause an acid attack in our mouths?so it is not just limited to ?sugary? foods. Foods such as bread, crackers, pasta, potato chips, pretzels, and French fries are starchy foods that can cause acid attacks in our mouths.?

To help spread the word about the importance of taking care of our oral health, Leanne notes that ?A Better Check-Up? will be visiting Walmart stores across the country during two weekends in April?between April 17-19 and April 24-26.

The program, she explains, ?is a joint venture between Walmart, Oral-B, and Crest to educate Canadians on the value of preventive oral care during this April’s Oral Health Month. The program will be visiting 100 Walmart locations across Canada and approximately 45 registered dental hygienists and 35 dental hygiene students will be in stores in teams of two, answering questions and providing advice to consumers about what they can do to improve their oral health.?

Along with the goal of ensuring that Canadians are aware of the link between their oral health and their overall health, ?the program also seeks to raise $20,000 for the Dentistry Canada Fund for the ongoing advancement of oral health education in Canada. Throughout April, a portion of the proceeds from participating Crest and Oral-B products purchased at Walmart locations will go toward making the $20,000 donation,? Leanne says.

And that $20,000 donation ?is part of Crest, Oral-B and Walmart’s commitment to providing the Dentistry Canada Fund a total donation of $270,000 over a five-year period,? she adds.

You can find the complete tour schedule including dates, times, and locations online.

If you won’t be able to make it to one of the ?Better Check-Up? events, there are still plenty of ways to find good information on keeping your smile healthy.

?One of the best places to start,? Leanne says, ?is your own dental office. If you don’t have a ?dental home? ask a friend or family member for an office they attend and that they recommend.

?Some great websites for information are:

The Canadian Dental Association,

The Canadian Dental Hygienists? Association,

Health Canada,

Alberta Dental Association and College, and

Alberta Health Services Calgary Region.

Also is a site which will provide more information about Crest ProHealth products.?

So as you pack away that winter wardrobe and get ready to put your best forward for spring, don’t forget to take care of the best accessory of all?a healthy smile.