Prevention oral health is integral to general health and means much more than healthy teeth. Several areas of concern are:
- Good nutrition and diet habits: Many teens are not receiving the benefits of fluoridated water because they are drinking bottled water, and sugared carbonated sodas and sports drinks may contribute to tooth decay.
- Oral piercing: Oral piercing can cause infection, chipped or cracked teeth and interference with dental x-rays.
- Tobacco use: Using spit tobacco, also known as “chew” or “smoke” can result in gum recession, tooth decay, oral lesions and oral cancers as well as nicotine addiction.
- Sports injuries and protective mouth gear: About one third of all dental injuries and approximately 19 percent of head and face injuries are sports-related.
- Eating disorders: Anorexia and bulimia also can result in damage to teeth. Poor nutritional intake associated with anorexia means a loss of calcium. Stomach acids from the constant vomiting symptomatic of bulimia erode the enamel on the teeth.
Experts have suggested the following steps as a start to improving access to oral health services for adolescents:
- Improve access to dental care by expanding preventive care to poor inner-city and rural youth through school-based programs.
- Improve Medicaid coverage for patients and reimbursements for dentists, and provide incentives for dentists to practice in underserved areas.
- Extend dental office hours or provide an on-call service to answer questions.
Dental Health Services in Schools Resource List
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