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Oral Health

The health of your teeth and gums impacts many aspects of your daily life, including the ability to eat, speak, and smile, overall health, work and school attendance and performance, and self-esteem. Poor oral hygiene can lead to cancer, pain, and disability.

For these reasons, it is important to:

Oral Health in Children

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States.” Untreated cavities can lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.

Did you know:

  • 20% of children aged 5 to 11 have one untreated decayed tooth.

  • 13% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have at least one untreated decayed tooth.

  • Children from low-income families are twice as likely (25%) as children from high-income families (11%) to have cavities.

Cavities are preventable with fluoride varnish, fluoridated tap water, and dental sealants. Here are some things that can increase a child’s chances of getting cavities:

Dental Care Guidelines for Babies and Children

The CDC recommends the following guidelines for the dental care of babies.

  • Wipe gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth. This should take place after the first feeding of the morning and right before bed.

  • Brush twice a day with a soft, small bristled toothbrush and plain water for babies with teeth.

  • When your baby turns one, visit the dentist.

  • Talk with your dentist about putting fluoride varnish on your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear.

  • Consult with your doctor or dentist about using fluoride toothpaste before the age of 2.

The CDC recommends the following guidelines for the dental care of children.

  • Brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.

  • Drink tap water that contains fluoride.

  • Ask your child’s dentist to apply dental sealants when appropriate.

  • If your child is under the age of 6, watch them brush.

  • They should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and spit it out.

  • Help them brush their teeth until they develop good brushing skills.

To find out if your tap water is fluoridated, visit the CDC’s My Water’s Fluoride website. You can also call your water utility company and request the most recent “Consumer Confidence Report.” This will report the level of fluoride in your tap water.

Oral Health in Adults

Oral health problems in adults in the United States include:

  • Untreated tooth decay, which impacts 26% of adults.

  • Gum disease. 46% of adults over the age of 30 show signs of gum disease.

  • Tooth loss, which is the result of untreated tooth decay and gum disease.

  • Oral cancer, which is most common in adults over 55 who smoke and are heavy drinkers.

  • Chronic diseases, which increase an adult’s risk for missing teeth and poor oral health.

Dental Care Guidelines for Adults

The CDC recommends the following guidelines for the dental care of adults:

  • Drink fluoridated water and brush with fluoride toothpaste.

  • Brush teeth twice a day and floss daily.

  • Visit your dentist at least once a year. This includes if you have no natural teeth or have dentures.

  • Quit smoking and using tobacco products.

  • Limit alcoholic drinks.

  • When acting as a caregiver, help older adults brush and floss.

  • If you have diabetes, work to control the disease to decrease your risk of developing gum disease.

  • If your medications cause dry mouth, ask your doctor for a different medication. If a change is not possible, drink water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco products and alcohol.

  • See your doctor or dentist if you have sudden changes in taste and smell.

Dental Care Guidelines for Pregnant Women

When pregnant, you are at higher risk for gum disease and cavities. Here are the recommended CDC guidelines for dental care of pregnant women.


Good oral health can enhance our ability to enjoy good food, smile, and feel confident. On the other hand, poor oral health can lead to pain, disability, and chronic disease. The CDC’s oral health guidelines provide an excellent resource for knowing how to care for the oral health of babies, children, adults, pregnant women, and the elderly. Establish healthy oral habits and continue to see your dentist at least once a year to keep your teeth and gums healthy.


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