Why Oral Health Matters

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The “good old days” weren’t so good when it came to people’s oral health. I remember visiting my grandma when I was a young girl and every night she would take out her dentures and drop them in the cleaning solution on the bathroom counter.  She grew up in a time when we didn’t have fluoride toothpaste or fluoridated water, and many people reached adulthood without a full set of teeth. Even as I grew up, visiting the dentist was only for emergencies, like having a tooth pulled. Thankfully, things have changed. But, your smile is still the first thing that many people notice.

Did you know… about half of children have tooth decay by the age of five?  Nearly all tooth decay can be prevented. Tooth decay is caused by a bacterial disease called caries and can be spread from person to person. Children with poor oral health are more than three times more likely to miss school because of a dental issue.

Did you know…  about half of military recruits could not be deployed because of dental health problems? Poor oral health can affect many adult job prospects and social prospects. Most employers “make instant judgements based on appearance including someone’s teeth and smile.” Many people do not realize that your oral health has a direct connection to heart disease, can impact birth weight and can be affected by diabetes, HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis and even Alzheimer’s.


Oral Health Colorado Fast Facts:

  • In 2003, here in Colorado we saved near $149 Million in dental treatment costs because of fluoride in public drinking water.
  • In 2014, 41 percent of adults in Colorado did not have dental insurance.
  • With the expansion of Medicaid here in Colorado approximately 1.4 million people have insurance coverage which also includes dental benefits for adults.
  • Surprisingly though, 61 percent of adults with Medicaid health benefits were not aware that they also have dental benefits.
  • Among adults between the ages of 21-64, 68 percent of African Americans and 46 percent of Hispanics reported losing one or more teeth compared to 29 percent of Caucasians.
  • As we get older we increase the chance of losing teeth.
  • In 1965, three out of four adults over the age of 65 has lost all their natural teeth. Today, 52 percent of African Americans and 46 percent of Hispanics over the age of 65 has lost 6 or more teeth compared to 27 percent of Whites.
  • If you have diabetes, you have a significantly higher risk of losing all your natural teeth compared to those without diabetes.


When we see statistics like this, we want to throw up our hands and say what’s the point? The point is this: Good oral health begins early and poor oral health is preventable. Oral Health Colorado would like to encourage you to begin teaching good oral health practices as a child because what happens in our mouth affects your entire body and touches every part of our health. Here are some simple steps you can take today:

  • Drink fluoridated tap water and brush with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth thoroughly and floss between the teeth to remove dental plaque.
  • If your child is under 6 or 7, help them brush their teeth.
  • Visit your dentist on a regular basis, even if you have no natural teeth or have dentures.
  • Have your child visit a dentist for a first check-up when the first tooth erupts or by age 1.
  • Do not use any tobacco products. If you smoke, quit.
  • Limit sugary drinks, including juice, to mealtimes only or not at all.
  • If you have diabetes or heart disease, work to maintain control of the disease. See your dentist regularly to control gum disease; this can prevent serious health complications.
  • If your medication causes dry mouth, ask your doctor for a different medication that may not cause this condition. If dry mouth cannot be avoided, drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco products and alcohol.
  • See your doctor or a dentist if you have sudden changes in taste and smell.
  • When acting as a caregiver, help older individuals or individuals with special needs, to brush and floss their teeth if they are not able to perform these activities independently. Also ensure that you provide plenty of fluoridated water throughout the day to prevent dry mouth from causing cavities.

For more information on why oral health matters, visit:

Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Vision Data Tool

Fast Facts About Oral Health & Dental Coverage

Delta Dental’s Oral Health Library

Colgate’s Oral Care Center