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    7 benefits of better oral health

    Why teeth matter to health more than your patients might think.

    Patients are slowly becoming aware that their mouth matters. Yes, they know teeth are important and that brushing and flossing are necessary. They may even assume their mouth is connected to some health problems.

    But what else can you tell them about why their teeth matter—more than they think? Here are seven things to tell patients to remind them just how much their oral health matters.

    “Teeth provide a great smile.”

    Sure, we all know this, but if you’ve been blessed with a terrific-looking smile, you may take it for granted. "Having a great smile is not only about looking better, it is also about how prospective employers, love interests or business partners will judge us,” says Edward A. Alvarez, D.D.S., fellow, World Clinical Laser Institute, who practices in Murray Hill, New York.

    Dr. Alvarez reminds patients that people judge our intelligence, cleanliness, socioeconomic level and other attributes by our smile. Whether it’s right or wrong, “not having a nice smile can cost us more than embarrassment, it can also cost us money or love, and that is a cost to our self-esteem and mental health,” he notes. A lot of patients are motivated by wanting the best possible smile—and it’s okay to remind them that’s what you’re there for.

    “You don’t want to eat baby food, right?”

    Another thing patients take for granted—until they have a problem—is eating. "Having a full set of teeth that are free of pain matters because digestion begins with chewing in the mouth,” Dr. Alvarez says. There’s nothing worse than not being able to chew on your back teeth because of pain, drink a cold drink because of sensitivity or have to avoid your favorite crunchy food because of missing teeth.

    “If you cannot chew properly, it will lead to stomach and digestive problems, and you will not be able to absorb the nutrients fully," Alvarez notes. Reminding patients about their tooth functionality is key.

    Related reading: The top 10 foods for healthy teeth and gums

    “Your saliva looks great.”

    That’s not something patients hear a lot. “I choose to discuss…saliva,” says Anastasia Turchetta, RDH, a speaker and author in Buffalo, New York. “I'll say ‘your saliva looks healthy.’” Turchetta says saliva “should always look like champagne—clear and bubbly.” The hygienist tells her patients if their saliva is thick or stringy like a rope used to lasso an animal in a rodeo, they may have a problem such as dry mouth or a salivary gland dysfunction. Turchetta mentions how medications dry out the mouth and without saliva, teeth are not remineralized from the assault of the food in their diet. Plus, risk for tooth decay increases because food and plaque will stick to teeth without saliva to wash it off.

    “Without saliva, tooth sensitivity increases and speaking and eating become difficult,” she explains. While not many dental professionals speak about saliva, letting patients know what’s normal is one more way they can be proactive about their dental health. 

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