June is Oral Health Month!

By Kaylee Holmes and Eva Biznichuk, Students at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine

Our oral cavity is the gateway to our body. What we eat and drink has lasting effects on our mental, physical, and oral health. Poor oral health can result in intraoral pain which will limit a person’s ability to eat and maintain good nutrition. Decreased nutritional intake results in systemic disease which can ultimately result in an endless and vicious cycle of poor health. Our recent pandemic resulted in changes to our routines, lifestyle and more importantly changes to our access to health care. All people were impacted by the pandemic, however, reviewing oral health screening data from Special Olympics showed a disproportionate decrease in oral health.

Comparing data from pre- and post-pandemic, a clear downward trend was seen. While the rate of edentulism decreased globally, in Special Olympics athletes in Colorado, the rate rose by 1.2%. Furthermore, gingival disease increased by 37% while untreated cavities increased by 20%. Gingival disease results in inflammation and if left untreated, can lead to bone loss which ultimately leads to tooth loss. Cavities that are left untreated just continue to grow and can result in pain, infection, and tooth loss!

So what does this all mean?! Simply put, over the past few years the oral health of Special Olympics athletes got worse. Athletes had more unfilled cavities and more inflammation in their gums.

Why does this matter?! As mentioned, poor oral health can snowball into many more systemic troubles including pain and poor nutrition. Furthermore, long wait times for patients make getting care harder than ever before.

So what can YOU do at home? Keeping our teeth and body healthy starts at home. Brushing in the morning and before we go to bed is the BEST thing to keep our teeth strong. Brushing for 2 minutes is best, but sometimes it’s tough to count out for a full two minutes. One fun way to help make sure you brush for a full 2 minutes is turning on your favorite song while you brush! Flossing a couple of times a week also makes sure that the tough-to-reach spaces between our teeth stay clean. Remembering to floss can be challenging so our favorite tip is to put floss where you see it or near the TV remote, that way when you sit down to watch your favorite show, you can floss while you watch. Next, a great way to help keep our teeth strong is by making sure we have fluoride in our system. Fluoride is found in tap water and toothpaste! Our fluoride tip this month is to spit out all the extra toothpaste after brushing, but don’t rinse your mouth with water after. Not rinsing after brushing helps the fluoride stick around and keep teeth strong and healthy!