What’s the Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health?
Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria – most of it harmless. Normally, the body’s natural defenses along with good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections such as tooth decay and gum disease!
- Certain medications – such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers and diuretics – can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produces by bacteria in the mouth, helping protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease
- Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease – might play a role in some diseases.
- Certain diseases such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS can lower the body’s resistance to infection making oral health problems more severe.
In addition, special conditions & ages can impact oral health. Use these links for further information! Prenatal Oral Health, Primary Teeth Facts, Adult and Senior Oral Health, Infants and Children
How can you protect your Oral Health?
- Brush your teeth at least twice per day
- Floss daily
- Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed
- Drink fluoridated water and use fluoride toothpaste
- Attend regularly scheduled dental checkups & cleanings
- Avoid tobacco & limit alcohol
- Follow up with your dentist as soon as oral problems arise
Looking for affordable dental care? The Dental Network Access Program helps county residents access a network of dentists who accept lower dental fees, sometimes even lower than they accept with insurance company contracts. For more information, and to find participating dentists visit
Fluoride and the Water Supply – Is it SAFE?
For over 60 years water fluoridation has proved to be a safe and cost-effective way to reduce dental caries. It exists naturally in water sources and is derived from fluorine, the thirteenth most common element in the Earth’s crust.
- Water fluoridation is estimated to reduce tooth decay by 20%-40%!
- Optimal levels of fluoride should be between 0.7 and 1.2 ppm (parts per million)
- Check to see if your water contains fluoride! Does YOUR water have fluoride?
- NOTE: some parents purchase bottled water for their children to drink instead of tap water. Most bottled water lacks fluoride, but now fluoridated bottled water is available.
- If fluoride is added, the manufacturer is required to list the amount: if the concentration is greater than 0.6ppm up to 1.0ppm, you might see the health claim “drinking fluoridated water may reduce the risk of tooth decay” on the label.
Important Information about Fluoride and Oral Health
- It is well known that fluoride helps prevent and even reverse the early stages of tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when plaque breaks down sugars in food. This bacteria produce damaging acids that dissolve the hard enamel surfaces of teeth.
- Cavities (or caries) occur when the damage is not stopped or treated – the bacteria can penetrate through the enamel. These can weaken teeth, cause pain, tooth loss and even widespread infection in severe cases.
Fluoride combats tooth decay in TWO ways:
1. Incorporates into the structure of the tooth 2. Protects the surface of the tooth’s enamel
Fluoride can’t REPAIR cavities but it can REVERSE low levels of tooth decay and thus prevent new cavities
Despite good news about dental health, tooth decay remains one of the most common diseases of childhood.
- More than 25% of 2-5 year olds have one or more cavities
- Half of kids 12-15 years old have one or more cavities; tooth decay affects two thirds of 16-19 year olds