Proper dental care does make for a nice smile, but it also can prevent all kinds of other things from going wrong in people of all ages.
Many people don't seem to know how oral health works, so Tufts University School of Dental Medicine has put out this list of myths in the July/August issue of Nutrition Today:
Myth 1: The consequences of poor oral health and nutrition are restricted to one's own mouth
The Tufts people said when pregnant women eat poorly, it can impact their kids teeth later in life. They are more likely to have tooth decay. Deficiencies in calcuim, vitamin D and A and calories can mean oral defects. Lack of B6 and B12 could mean a cleft palate. Further, if a kid's mouth hurts because he has tooth decay, he probably will be distracted and won't learn well. He will also probably choose food that are easier to chew and less nutritious.
Myth 2: More sugar means more tooth decay
Problems stem from the amount of time sugar sit on the teeth, rather than the amount of sugar consumed. Bad are slowly dissolving candy and soda. The acids from the sugars form bacteria. The Tufts research showed that teens get about 40 percent of their carbs from soft drinks. It seems like they'd be better off with sugar-free ones, but they, along with acidic drinks like lemonade can cause demineralization of teeth.
Myth 3: Losing baby teeth to tooth decay is OK
It's not. The decay can cause damage to the teeth developing below. And if the baby teeth fall out prematurely, permanent teeth may come in malpositioned.
Myth 4: Osteoporosis only affects the spine and hips
Osteoporosis can also lead to tooth loss. Tufts professors say calcium and vitamins D and K can help stave off the losses.
Myth 5: Dentures improve a person's diet
But not if they don't fit well. In that case, wearers are likely to go for soft foods that are often unhealthy such as cakes or pastries. The Tufts folks point those with discomfort to get a denture adjustment and, in the meantime, cook vegetables and eat canned fruits that are generally softer and easier to chew. And drink fluids to prevent dry mouth.
Myth 6: Dental decay is only a problem for young people
Receding gums can lead to root decay in older people. That's common for those whose saliva is reduced -- impacting the clensing action -- by antidepressants, duiretics, antihistamines and sedatives. Drinking water can compensate. Those with conditions such as diabetes need to take special care because they are more at risk of oral health problems, and peridontal disease can make those maladies worse.
Baltimore Sun file photo/Doug Kapustin