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Hispanic Heritage Month & Oral Health

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Everyone deserves access to quality oral care but knowing where to begin isn't easy. Many people are surprised to learn that your oral health can significantly impact your overall health. Poor dental hygiene can lead to serious health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The good news is that a daily oral care routine can prevent many of these conditions.

As essential as dental care is for a high quality of life, lack of oral health education and access to dental care are common barriers for the Hispanic community in the United States. SSM Population Health examined the racial oral health disparities among Non-Hispanic Whites, Non-Hispanic Blacks, and Hispanics and found that high levels of delayed dental care and unmet dental care needs exist in these groups. These disparities result in higher levels of tooth decay and less preventive care.

What Are Some Important Dental Terms to Know?

It's never too late to improve oral wellness for yourself and your family. Oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be managed in their early stages. If left untreated, they lead to infections and health conditions. As you begin to learn more about dental health, these are some terms you may come across:

  • Tooth Enamel: This protective later of the tooth defends it from decay, wear, and acid. The body can't regrow enamel, so it's important to maintain it.
  • Plaque Biofilm: A thin, sticky substance containing a build-up of bacteria and sugar that leads to tooth decay.
  • Tooth Decay: Decay can look like brown or white spots on the tooth. The discoloration develops when the tooth enamel is weakened. This can be prevented by good dental hygiene.
  • Gum Disease: Also known as periodontal disease, occurs when plaque biofilm damages the gums to the point where they become infected and start to recede.

What Is a Good Oral Care Routine?

Practicing daily oral care is the best way to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Many serious health issues can be prevented with a simple dental care routine. From infancy to adulthood, practicing these powerful habits can give you a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean in between your teeth daily using interdental brushes, floss, or water flossers.
  • Visit a dental professional regularly.
  • Avoid food and beverages that are sugary or highly acidic.
  • Rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthrinse daily.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months or after having an illness.
  • Never share your toothbrush with anyone else.
  • Swish water around your mouth after drinking something sugary or high in acid.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.

When Should I See a Dental Professional?

Busy schedules, tight budgets, limited Spanish-speaking options, and anxiety about seeing the dentist are understandable reasons for putting off dental visits. However, some symptoms can lead to more expensive problems if left untreated, so addressing them early on is critical. Listen to your mouth. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact a dental professional as soon as possible to avoid further issues:

  • Red, tender, or swollen gums
  • Toothaches or swelling around a tooth
  • Damaged or missing teeth
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Mouth pain

How Can I Find Affordable Dental Care?

If you need dental assistance, affordable dental care isn't out of reach. There are plenty of low-cost and free dental services that can meet your oral care needs no matter the budget. Here are some cost-effective options for quality treatment you can pursue:

  • Dental and dental-related schools
  • Local free or low-cost dental health clinics
  • Federally funded community health centers
  • Dental care foundations
  • Student discounts or promotional rates at dental practices
  • Colgate's Bright Smiles, Bright Futures mobile dental vans

How Is Colgate's Bright Smiles, Bright Futures Program Helping?

Colgate is helping millions of people around the world get access to dental care. The Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® program is committed to providing free dental screenings and oral health education to people that need it most. Colgate's fleet of mobile dental vans travel to communities all over the United States to provide access to oral health education and treatment referrals to more than 10 million children. A healthy smile might seem like a little thing, but it's vital that children have the positive self-esteem and healthy habits in place they need to succeed.

There's still plenty of work to be done in addressing disparities that impact the Hispanic community. Awareness of how cultural, economic, behavioral, and environmental factors contribute to the disproportionate health care opportunities available to the Hispanic population can lead to affordable treatment and education to ensure everyone receives the care they deserve.

A healthy mouth plays a significant role in delivering long-term health, wellbeing, and opportunity. Investing in your oral health now can prevent future issues and provide more positive outcomes and healthy smiles for families.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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