They say a smile is worth a thousand words, so what does your smile say about your health? While many of us only only visit the dentist in times of emergency or pain, it’s important to visit the dentist at least once every six months! While this may seem costly for some, there are solutions that can make regular checkups less expensive and help prevent more expensive treatment in the future. Continue reading to learn about oral health and how regular dental visits can benefit you and your family!
What’s Oral Health And Why Is It So Important?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Dental Institute (ADA), oral health is the absence of: pain in your face/mouth, mouth or throat cancer, oral infections, mouth sores, gum disease, cavities, loss of teeth, or any oral condition that prevents you from biting, chewing, smiling or talking.Oral health affects all aspects of our lives, from our physical health to our mental health and self-esteem! One great example of this is suffering from halitosis (an oral health condition which gives someone chronic bad breath). While is may seem like a minor problem on the surface, many people that have halitosis are afraid to talk to others because of it. Even your finances can be affected by not taking care of your oral health! Suffering from an oral diseases can make you miss work, or even worse, create a disabling condition.
Oral Health Is More Than Cavity Prevention
The WHO recommends practicing good oral hygiene habits and visiting your dentist yearly to reduce risk factors associated with oral diseases. The most common conditions are tooth decay, periodontitis, oral cancer, tooth loss, and oral trauma.
A sugar-laden diet and a lack of oral hygiene, such as not flossing or brushing your teeth properly, are the most common causes of dental cavities and periodontal infections (gum diseases). According to the WHO’s website on oral health, these oral infections are closely related and represent risk factors to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, and diabetes.
Oral health diseases are noncommunicable diseases (chonric diseases), which means that they can be modified and prevented. A few ways you can take care of your oral health is to practice good oral hygiene (brushing your teeth at least twice a day) and maintain a healthy diet that is low in sugar. In addition, you should avoid consuming products that can can harm your oral health, such as tobacco, alcohol, and betel nuts.
Keep in mind: Use mouthguards to help prevent dental injuries whenever you are at risk of getting hit by something (such as in contact sports) and traveling on motorcycles.
What Are the Benefits of Regularly Visiting Your Dentist?
One of the main benefits of going to the dentist at least once a year is to help prevent and detect early signs of dangerous oral diseases during each check-up. For this reason, we want to emphasize the importance of dentist visits and some of the treatments that they provide.
The most common treatment that dentists provide is a professional dental cleaning to remove bacterial plaque (the soft matter that accumulates around the teeth and gums) and tartar (the hardened matter that forms when plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing).
Regular dental cleanings are essential preventive procedures that provide many overall health benefits, including lowering the chances of suffering heart attacks and strokes. It also helps to prevent chronic inflammation of the gums by improving the function of the blood vessels, which reduces the risk of periodontal disease and cardiovascular problems. The majority of dental problems are caused by bacteria accumulating in our mouths, so be sure to plan dental checkups and cleanings regularly!
Corrective Healthcare For Existing Conditions
It’s important to note that each condition and treatment must be first diagnosed by a medical professional. While we are not doctors, we want to share some of the benefits that taking care of your teeth and oral health can bring you and those around you. Here are some of the most common procedures that dentists perform:
Diagnostics and prevention
- Professional dental cleaning: it should be performed once a year
- Cavity prevention and repair
- Dental crowns
- Tooth extraction
- Orthodontics: improving their alignment with teeth
- Endodontics: treating the pulp (living tissue) in the teeth
- Dental implants
- Pediatric dentistry: treating children’s teeth
- Cosmetic dentistry: improving the appearance of teeth
- Periodontics: gum treatments to prevent and treat gingivitis and periodontitis
- Bruxism correction: treatments that reduce tooth clenching or grinding and their negative effects
- Treatments to reduce tooth sensitivity
- Halitosis prevention
Right after their visit to the dentist, many people postpone or ignore the recommendations because they don't seem urgent or because they don't have a dental plan to afford the treatment. However, this is not recommended! It’s important to follow up on all recommended treatment and procedures recommended by your dentist to not only be healthier, but live a longer and happier life.
How Can You Get Low-Cost Or Even Free Dental Care?
You might be wondering which health insurance options undocumented immigrants have. To answer this, we need to talk about supplemental plans. These plans are not considered complete health insurance plans, but as their name implies, they supplement the costs of many healthcare treatments and procedures, such as accidents, serious illnesses such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, hospital visits, vision care, and dental care. Some of them require a social security number and others don't, which makes them an excellent option for people in the process of establishing their immigration status.
Another option is the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which you can find in the Health Insurance Marketplace offering free or low-cost medical and dental coverage. CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to children and teens in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but still fall within the CHIP income guidelides. To qualify for CHIP, the insured child must be a legal resident of the United States.
Keep in mind: If you are a Mexican citizen, the Ventanillas de Salud program provided by Mexican consulates can help you obtain both general healthcare and dental services, as well as provide you with guidance in any health-related topic.
Lastly, depending on your state or county, there might be several local low-cost dental service providers that you can use. For example, for Los Angeles County residents, there’s the ChapCare dental clinic for underserved communities at the Peck Health Center. The costs of their services range from free to very low depending on the financial status of the patient.