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Commentary: ‘Chomp, chomp’: the importance of oral health education

Commentary: ‘Chomp, chomp’: the importance of oral health education
December 07
10:10 2018

By Sara R. Correa

The holiday season is upon us – prep your turkeys, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and pumpkin pies! For many of us, it is the time of year where we fill our bellies to the max and maybe even gain a couple pounds. It is also the season of sharing, giving, accepting, and being grateful for all that we have – especially our teeth!

A large part of enjoying our holiday meals is actually being able to chew, taste, and swallow. All of this action occurs in our mouths and with the help of our tidy teeth. Even though we may take them for granted at times and not provide them the care they deserve each day, they help us live well, eat well, and be happy.

A report by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) stated that one of seven children go more than a year without seeing a dentist, which increases their likelihood three-fold of developing cavities into adulthood and missing school. One of the unfortunate causes of poor oral health lies greatly in the excessive costs for dental care and lack of dental insurance. As a result, at-home oral health education is crucial to preventing tooth decay and large expenses in the future.

If you do a quick Google search on oral health education, you will see a variety of manuals, research studies, videos, and detailed graphics hoping to instill some knowledge into us. Truth is, how many of us actually have time to go through all of this information, or even the idea of doing a search on this topic to begin with? This sheds light on the real issue for promoting oral health education – we need to motivate people to think about this topic regularly and provide easy access guides to people directly.

In 2013 a systematic review on the effectiveness of oral health education programs stated that for programs to be successful, they needed to be combined with 1) group actions, and 2) participant’s own desire for improving their personal oral health. This brings me back to the idea that we usually take our teeth for granted until we begin to experience pain or discomfort, loss of teeth, or more serious illnesses like oral cancer or heart disease. Being aware and informed is not enough for taking care of our teeth; we need to want it. 

There exist a variety of tools out there but finding them and choosing the right one for you can be a challenging task. Luckily, the NC-DHHS has also provided a quick guide on how to properly take care of your teeth. Making this a daily routine, if it isn’t already one, can be a challenge at the beginning. Remember, though, that these four minutes of your day can make a world of a difference in your future. Take care of your teeth starting at home right now, so that you can chomp through that turkey leg or corn on the cob later. You can even make it a New Year’s resolution!

Lastly, don’t forget about giving to those in need. Start a donation drive with your family members – it can be as easy as asking them to bring a toothbrush and toothpaste to the holiday dinner! Remember, every day matters for oral health.

Sara Rubio Corea is currently a Master’s of Public Health student at UNC Chapel Hill, and plans to become a physician.

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