This month is not all about costumes and Halloween candy; it is also about brushing, flossing and dental hygiene. October is National Dental Hygiene Month, sponsored by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. This month-long observation is devoted to stressing the importance of oral hygiene. This year’s theme is “A Healthy Smile Lasts a Lifetime.”
“The goal of Dental Hygiene Month is to get information out to the public and raise awareness of the importance of dental hygiene,” Jane Vaith, a registered dental hygienist and member of the American Dental Hygienist Association, said.
According to WebMD, with proper care, teeth and gums can stay healthy for a lifetime. With proper oral hygiene, the risks for tooth decay and gum disease lessen. Brushing, flossing, eating right and visiting a dentist regularly can help keep your smile healthy.
“Tooth decay caused by the repetitive drinking of soda and sugared fruit juices is a reoccurring problem I see with young adults,” Vaith said.
Drinking soda can have a significant impact on your teeth, Vaith explained. If someone is a soda drinker, s/he should not sip on it for an extended period of time. Drink the soda within 10-15 minutes and then rinse the mouth with water. If a person sips, it is like putting a sugar cube into your mouth every time you lift the soda bottle to your mouth, Vaith said.
The American Dental Association offers the following advice. It is important that a person cleans between teeth daily with floss. Decay causing bacteria can still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles cannot reach. Flossing helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
Poor dental hygiene can lead to tooth decay, loss of teeth, gum disease and bad breath. People can go from having no dental problems to several cavities in a short time. Dental hygiene should be a concern for everyone, Vaith said.
Robyn Spragins, registered nurse and assistant director of Student Health and Wellness Center, said that the West Chester University Health Center does not provide any dental care. The health center can assist students in finding a local dentist, but there is no dentist on staff.
If students experience some dental pain accompanied with a fever and ear pain the health center recommends a visit to examine the possibility of a sinus infection or other illnesses. If students are experiencing tooth and gum pain and sensitivity to hot and cold, the health center recommends students visit a dentist.
Spragins urged all students to discard their toothbrush after an illness. She also recommends keeping the toothbrush away from others, adding that students should never share toothbrushes or drink out of the same mouthwash container.
The American Dental Association recommends that replacing toothbrushes every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush will not do a good job of cleaning teeth.
“Students should consciously watch what they eat and should avoid the consumption of sugars,” Spragins said. “For prevention, students should also visit a dentist every six month.”
Vaith also urged everyone to visit a dentist every six month. By visiting a dentist regularly, people become familiar with what is going on in their mouth. If a dentist recommends a patient to change his or her brushing techniques, it can greatly affect their overall oral health.
If a student is away from home and needs to see a local dentist, it is important to see if his or her dental insurance plan can be used. Every office is different, and it is important to check before visiting, according to Spragins. She recommends that people become familiar with their insurance plan.
“Students should call dental offices and check prices before visiting,” Spragins said. “Prices can vary for services.”
Hannah Severtson is a fourth-year student majoring in political science with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at HS597440@wcupa.edu.