October is National Dental Hygiene Month, an annual reminder for the nation to practice the daily habits that promote healthy teeth and gums. This is the sixth year of the public awareness promotion, led by the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA) in partnership with the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, producer of the famous chewing gum.
The month-long campaign is targeted mostly towards children's oral health but also works to remind adults that they need to take care of their teeth, too. Working with dental hygienists, schools, and many public and private organizations across the nation, the promotion sponsors presentations, speaking events, webinars, free clinics and courses, social media outreach, service grants, and many other educational activities to market good oral hygiene to families and communities.
The ADHA is the nation's premier organization for dental hygienists and supports them through advocacy, training, research, reviewing and setting standards, grants, and scholarships. The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company has for 25 years sponsored the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programs, created to encourage research into the benefits of chewing sugar-free gum for oral health, particularly how stimulating saliva acts to neutralize the acids that attack teeth. They also promote oral health programs worldwide.
THE ELEMENTS OF GOOD ORAL HEALTH
The focus of National Dental Hygiene Month is on the key daily habits that promote healthy teeth and gums. These are:
- Brushing. The ADHA recommends using a soft toothbrush to brush twice a day, once in the morning after breakfast and then again in the evening just before going to bed, using a toothpaste containing fluoride.
- Flossing. This should be done once daily, optimally just before going to sleep, when trapped food particles can do the most damage.
- Eating healthy. A diet in accordance with the government's food pyramid promotes oral health by cutting down on sugars and contributing to overall physical health and includes whole-grains and dairy products, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, with meat, fish, and sweets in moderation.
- Use an antimicrobial mouthwash. This should be done with daily brushing.
- Chew sugar-free gum. Research supported by the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programs has shown that chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating helps to clean debris from teeth, promotes saliva production which helps to control acid buildup, and adds necessary minerals to the enamel of the teeth.
Additionally, parents should check their children's teeth closely once per month looking for signs of decay or infection, including cavities and white spots on the gums. They should make sure their children see their dentist for a checkup regularly.
The ADHA also recommends that people remember to brush the flat chewing surfaces of their teeth because people tend to brush the front and back sides adequately but overlook the tops and that they should put in the extra effort required to floss their back teeth just as well as they do their front ones.
A LIFETIME OF HEALTHY TEETH
Although the healthy daily habits that lead to healthy teeth should be taught as soon as a child is old enough to do them on their own, adults should get into the habits recommended by this year's National Dental Hygiene Month regardless of their age or the condition of their teeth. Good oral health is an important part overall well-being.
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