Live Mouth Smart: How to Advocate World Oral Health Day 2017

Today, the FDI World Dental Federation wants to educate people on how to Live Mouth Smart.

And no, “mouth smart” is not the same as a “smart mouth.”

Live Mouth Smart is the theme for World Oral Health Day 2017. World Oral Health Day launched in 2013. Organized by the FDI World Dental Federation, the day raises awareness of the importance of good oral health, as well as the connection between oral health and overall health.

The FDI World Dental Federation distributed a guide for policymakers with five calls to action for the day. And while the day is geared toward advocacy, it does contain useful tips for you to advocate for your own oral health.

Why You Want to Advocate for Your Own Oral Health

It’s a saying we’ve shared before:

You can’t spell overall without oral.

As in, oral health directly affects overall wellness.

Based on some of the worldwide statistics released by the FDI World Dental Foundation, many of us are struggling with our health.

  • Oral health affects 3.9 billion people globally, with untreated tooth decay impacting almost half of the world’s population (44 percent).
  • Throughout the world, between 60 and 90 percent of schoolchildren and nearly 100 percent of adults have tooth decay, which often leads to pain and discomfort.
  • Severe gum disease is found in 15 to 20 percent of middle-aged (35- to 44-year-old) adults.
  • In the United States, $110 billion is spent annually on oral healthcare.

And this isn’t to mention the serious gaps in epidemiological data, especially in low- and middle-income countries, due to oral health not being integrated in national disease surveillance.

While it may require policymakers to change the way we report oral health globally, oral health is anything but out of our court.

Four Simple Ideas to Boost Your Health this World Oral Health Day 2017

Here are four ways you can advocate for your own oral health:

  • Eat healthy. The FDI World Dental Foundation defines a healthy diet primarily as one low in sugar, as sugar is the leading risk factor for tooth decay. But you don’t have to make healthy eating about avoiding certain foods. Lots of healthy options are delicious. Foods rich in calcium and phosphorous — like hard aged cheese, seafood, almonds and pumpkin seeds — can help restore enamel. Hard, crunchy foods that contain lots of water — like celery — can gently scrub and clean teeth surfaces, removing plaque and food particles. Foods rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants — berries, broccoli and beans — can help clean gums. If you need any help, follow us on Facebook for a new healthy recipe every Wednesday.
  • Say NO to tobacco. Tobacco use in all forms is harmful to health, including oral health. Globally, it’s the leading preventable cause of death and disease.
  • While an occasional glass of wine may actually be good for you, excessive alcohol use can lead to periodontal disease.
  • Apply fluoride. Fluoride can prevent tooth decay, reverse the process of early decay and remineralize enamel. You also have several options about how you might apply it:
  • Add it to water, salt or milk. To check to see if fluoride’s been added to your tap water, go to this website, which is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the tap water is fluoridated, you can learn about the fluoride concentration as well.
  • Have it prescribed as a gel, varnish or tablet. Contact your doctor about this method.
  • Use toothpaste or mouth rinse. Check the ingredients in your toothpaste or mouth rinse to ensure it contains fluoride.

By following these four simple ideas, you can advocate for your own oral health. You might also want to check out these resources from World Oral Health Day, including a brochure, posters and social media material you can download.

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#ikickbutts — Stand Against the Harmful Effects of Smoking on Teeth and Eyes

Kick Butts DaySet cups in a schoolyard fence.

Host an online training course.

Chalk statistics onto a sidewalk.

These are some of the activities suggested for National Kick Butts Day. The day seeks to empower youth to stand against tobacco use by participating in activism at their high school or college.

In addition to the activism of this day, we’d like to draw attention to what might not be as common knowledge: the harmful effects tobacco and smoking have on the mouth and eyes.

7 Ways Tobacco Products Can Hurt the Mouth

Tobacco products can hurt your mouth in a handful of ways. They can lead to:

  • Bad breath. Nicotine inhibits the body’s ability to produce saliva, and a dry mouth can cause bad breath.
  • Yellowed teeth. The two main culprits that yellow teeth in tobacco products are nicotine and tar. Even though nicotine is colorless, it turns yellow when exposed to oxygen.
  • Gum disease. Nicotine deprives the gums of nutrients and oxygen, which can cause gums to recede. In some cases, tobacco users also experience bleeding or swollen gums.

But that’s not it. According to the American Dental Association, the impact of tobacco products on your mouth also includes:

  • Stained tongue
  • Dulled sense of taste and smell
  • Slow healing after a tooth extraction or other surgery
  • Difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems

Tobacco products can also lead to oral cancer.

Why Oral Cancer Screening Is Important

The Delta Dental Plans Association has released studies showing smokers are six times as likely to develop oral cancer as nonsmokers.

Delta Dental follows the recommendations of The American Cancer Society — that your dentist or primary care doctor check your mouth and throat for oral cancer as part of a routine checkup.

The process for screening is simple. Your dentist looks in your mouth for early signs of cancer. Tell your dentist about any swelling, sores, or discoloring around your mouth, lips, or throat.

Screening is important for the following reasons:

  • Close to 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2017, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • According to the foundation, oral cancer will cause close to 10,000 deaths in the U.S.
  • On average, only 60 percent of those with the disease will live more than five years after being diagnosed, according to the Delta Dental Plans Association.

By quitting tobacco use, smokers can cut their risk in half in just five years. After 10 years, former smokers have the same risk as people who never used tobacco.

6 Ways Tobacco Products Can Harm the Eyes

Not only do tobacco products affect teeth, they can affect eyesight.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two of the greatest threats are cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens, which affects your ability to focus. According to the New York State Department of Health, heavy smokers (15 cigarettes a day or more) have up to three times the risk of cataract as nonsmokers.

Age-related macular degeneration (or AMD). AMD causes loss in the center of field of vision. Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than nonsmokers, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Smoking also increases the risk for:

  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Uveitis (an inflammation of the part of the eye called the uvea)
  • Dry eye syndrome (a condition in which a person either doesn’t produce enough tears or produces tears that evaporate too quickly)

Never Too Late to Quit

Nobody wants a discolored smile or to see the world through blurry lenses. If you are using tobacco, it’s not too late to quit today. By quitting, you can prevent gum disease and/or improve the condition of your gums, as well as lower your chances of eye disease.

Tomorrow is National Kick Butts Day. Many high schools, college campuses and other organizations around the nation will participate. You can participate by using the hashtag #ikickbutts.

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How to Save Your Vision with the Right Eye Care Routine

Did you know your eyes can detect about 10 million unique colors? Or that your eyeballs stay the same size from birth to death? Or that they’re composed of more than 2 million working parts?

As fascinating as they are, your eyes can sometimes be compromised.

Of course, some things are outside of your control: As you get older, parts of your body begin to wear down. Family history or genetics might also play a role.

When it comes to saving your vision, though, you have options and opportunities to improve your outlook.

2 Common Eye Diseases and 3 Simple Ways to Save Your Vision from Them

First, let’s consider some of the most common vision ailments – cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. More than 200,000 cases are reported for each in the U.S. each year.

  1. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, which affects your ability to focus.
  2. Age-related macular degeneration is brought on by age, and mostly affects those who are 60 or older. It causes loss in the center of field of vision. Two types include dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. With dry, the center of the retina deteriorates. With wet, leaky blood vessels grow under the retina.

A few ways to save your vision include:

  1. Wear UV-protection glasses. You can lessen your chances of cataracts by wearing glasses that protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light. Not only does this apply to UV light from the sun, but also to blue light from computer screens and other electronic devices.
  2. Eat a healthy diet. Diets containing vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA can help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
  3. Don’t smoke. Smoking can increase chances of both cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

You’ll also want to schedule a regular comprehensive eye exam at least once a year.

senior eye health

Why Regular Eye Exams Are Important

During a regular eye exam, your eye doctor checks for common eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Whereas cataracts can be treated, age-related macular degeneration can’t be cured, though treatment can help. The earlier it can be detected, the better.

But your eye doctor does more than just detect for those two diseases.

Some of the benefits of regular eye exams include:

  1. Your eye doctor can make sure everything’s in working order. Your eye doctor might look at how your eyes work together, how well you can make out objects near or far from you and how well your eyes can focus.
  2. Your doctor can monitor eye changes. A once-a-year visit can detect small changes in your eyes. This can prevent eye problems before they become major issues.
  3. Your doctor can also monitor your children’s eyes. Your children may not be aware what 20/20 vision looks like. Consequently, they might not report any issues with seeing. Your eye doctor can diagnose their vision problems before those problems begin to interfere with important aspects of their life, like school performance.

Take Control of Your Vision Today

March is National Save Your Vision Month, a designation from the American Optometric Association. This year, the organization is promoting awareness around digital eye strain and the importance of receiving regular, comprehensive eye exams from a doctor of optometry.

Your eyes are a window to the world, and your vision is precious. By practicing a good eye care routine and scheduling an appointment with your eye doctor once a year, you can expect to maintain your good vision!

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Technology in a Bad Light: The Risks of Digital Eye Strain

eye-strain-400-539272049Most of us can’t imagine a day without technology. Some of us may sit in front of a computer for eight hours at work. Then we might come home and turn on the TV. Throughout the day, perhaps we keep in touch on our smartphone with our significant other. And later, we may see what our friends are up to using our tablet to access our Facebook newsfeed.

Technology can connect us. But when we use it, we spend an awful lot of time staring at a digital surface, which poses a risk of digital eye strain.

Are You Suffering from Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain occurs when we spend too much time staring at a digital surface like a computer, smartphone, tablet or TV.

Due to the ubiquity of these items, it’s safe to say we’re all at risk.

If you or your child are experiencing digital eye strain, you might suffer from the following:

  • Headaches
  • Eye dryness
  • Eye fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty shifting focus to objects at a distance

Staring at screens for a prolonged period of time can wear down the retina, which can also lead to age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Your retina wears down because your eyes have to exert themselves to see an electronic device clearly. Over an extended period of time, the excessive focusing causes your eyes to become fatigued.

Unfortunately, many of us are either unaware or not doing anything about it. A recent nationwide survey from The Vision Council showed 68.5 percent of Americans have not discussed how often they use digital devices with their eyecare provider, and 73.5 percent were unaware of eyewear that could protect their eyes from them.

The survey also found 87 percent use digital devices more than two hours per day. More than 50 percent regularly use two digital devices simultaneously.

Is Technology Giving You the “Blues”?

Digital eye strain occurs because of the light emitted from digital devices. Most devices — including but not limited to computers, smartphones, tablets, TVs and artificial lighting — have light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which radiate blue wavelength light.

Blue wavelength light is a high-energy light visible to the naked eye.

Let’s consider how light travels. Light wavelengths look like this:

wavelengths-2

Notice, the red-light wavelength is significantly longer than the blue-light wavelength. The red-light wavelength is lower energy. Eventually, the wavelengths become so long we can’t see them with our naked eye. This is the realm of infrared light. If the wavelengths become so short we can’t see them, this is ultraviolet (UV) light.

You probably already know the sun’s UV rays can cause sunburn. They can also cause corneal surface burns, or sunburns on the eye.

What’s worse, ultraviolet light is a high energy wavelength, so our eyes aren’t good at protecting against it.

The Reason Your Children Are at Greater Risk

Digital devices can be great for children. They can be fun and educational.

But you’ll want to monitor your children’s use, as digital devices can pose a risk for eye strain.

Depending on your children’s ages, digital devices can hurt the development of their eyes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a child’s eyes don’t fully develop until about age seven.

But even if your children are older than seven, they might not have the same awareness you do of digital interfaces. Or, worse, they might ignore it altogether, and not put the devices away even if they start experiencing symptoms of eye strain.

Six Steps that Will Help You Prevent Digital Eye Strain

To prevent digital eye strain, you can take the following six steps:

  1. Keep your distance. When using technology, don’t press your face right up against the screen. If you’re watching TV, stay at least 20 feet away.
  2. Take frequent breaks. Every 20 minutes, take a break from the digital screen for at least 20 seconds.
  3. Use one device at a time. As tempting as it might be, don’t play on your phone and watch TV at the same time.
  4. Get glasses with blue-light filtering lenses. Sixty-seven percent of people in their 30s spend five or more hours each day on digital devices, according to Vision Monday, a leading news and news-analysis source for the ophthalmic industry. If working with digital screens is a prerequisite for you, consider purchasing glasses with blue-light filtering lenses. This can shield your eyes from harmful wavelengths.
  5. Schedule regular eye exams. Schedule routine eye exams every one to two years for you and your children.
  6. Unplug. In a lot of ways, you set your children’s habits for them. If you spend eight hours in front of a computer, only to come home and watch TV, you’re children are probably going to emulate your lifestyle. Schedule time as a family to unplug and do something that doesn’t involve technology.

Don’t let digital eye strain affect you or your children’s health. By practicing these six steps, you can keep 20/20 vision for the future!

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From the Goodness of the Tooth: Could Your Mouth Put You at Risk for Heart Disease?

February could be called the month of the heart.

Last week, because of Valentine’s Day, you may have seen heart-shaped balloons in your office, or received heart-shaped candy boxes from your special someone. Plus, February kicked off with Women’s Heart Week. And the month overall has been designated American Heart Month.

A little knowledge about the heart can go a long way, as heart disease is a major issue.

Why Heart Disease Is a Threat You’ll Want to Take to Heart

Heart disease has been the leading cause of deathheart-month-400-522311541 in the United States since 1921, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Coronary artery disease is very common, with 3 million cases in the United States a year, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women, according to the Women’s Heart Foundation. Overall, African American men, especially those in the southeast region of the United States, are at greatest risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As it turns out, the way we treat our mouths might affect the health of our hearts.

Are Your Oral Health Habits Affecting Your Heart?

Several studies indicate a possible connection between gum disease and heart disease.

For example, if you have gum disease, you are 28 percent more likely to have a heart attack, according to a 2016 study by the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden.

This could be in part because gum and heart disease share a lot of the same risk factors: smoking, older age, low-income status and obesity.

Some researchers claim bacteria in the gum tissues can actually contribute to clogged arteries. This is because bacteria in the gums might enter the bloodstream and lodge themselves to blood vessels. This buildup could inhibit the flow of blood through the heart.

Six Simple Habits to Improve Your Oral and Heart Health

Whether a connection exists between oral and heart health, healthy living is always a smart idea. To improve oral and heart health, practice these six habits:

  • Brush twice a day and floss daily. You can cut down on gum disease by brushing twice a day and flossing daily. Brush for at least two minutes each time. Flossing is especially good for the gums. A daily routine can toughen up the gums to prevent bleeding. It also removes plaque, which contributes to gum disease, from the spaces between the teeth.
  • Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated can rinse away food particles and ensure proper saliva production. When you drink water, try to drink tap water. Tap water contains fluoride, which strengthens enamel and can protect your teeth against bacteria. Drinking water not only helps teeth, it helps with every metabolic process in the body, so you can maintain a healthy weight. Too much weight makes the heart pump harder, which can lead to heart disease.
  • Eat healthy. Cut sugar and white flour from your diet. Replace them with fruits and vegetables like pears, apples, carrots and celery, which can stimulate the gums or at least prevent them from receding. Foods rich in protein like cheese and nuts can restore proper pH levels in your mouth. A healthy diet can also help you maintain a healthy weight and thus prevent heart disease.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can stain teeth. Worse, it deprives the gums of nutrients and oxygen and can cause the gums to recede. It also hurts the heart, by damaging the lining of your arteries.
  • Exercise regularly. This might be a more heart-specific habit, but exercise is one method for maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Visit your dentist. Schedule at least two checkups a year with your dentist. Not only will your teeth be clean, which helps prevent gum disease, your dentist might spot other health problems in your body before they become major issues.

February may be the month of the heart, but you can show love to your heart and smile all year long!

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Employees Want Better Insurance, According to Survey

Employees want better insurance benefit options (health, dental and vision), according to a recent study by the marketing agency Fractl.

The study asked 2,000 U.S. workers, ranging in age from 18 to 81, what benefits they’d consider most when deciding between a high-paying job and a lower-paying job. Workers were given a list of 17 perks to choose from.

Better health, dental and vision insurance topped the list, with 88 percent of respondents saying they’d give the benefit either “some consideration” (34 percent) or “heavy consideration” (54 percent).

Second place was more flexible hours, which also peaked at 88 percent, though fewer said they’d give it “heavy consideration.”
9-voluntary-benefits-trends_89190715

The article is similar to a 2015 study by Glassdoor, in which 40 percent of respondents said they preferred healthcare insurance (medical and dental) more than pay raises. Overall, according to the study, nearly four in five employees (79 percent) said they would prefer new or additional benefits to a pay increase.

By placing a higher value on additional benefits, employers can attract and retain the best talent in a competitive hiring market.

Today, many people have a greater awareness of how oral and vision health contributes to overall health. Researchers have found an association between oral disease and conditions such as heart disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Likewise, many common eye diseases often have no warning signs. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages. Sixty percent of employees said they would trade two days of vacation for an annual eye exam and a pair of glasses, in a survey conducted by Rosenthal & Sorkin, Managed Vision Care.

In the Fractl study, women were more likely to prefer better insurance (health, dental and vision), with 61 percent of women choosing it, compared to 47 percent of men.

But health insurance is the most expensive benefit to provide. According to the study, its average cost per employee is $6,435 for individual coverage and $18,142 for family coverage. The study also calculated that fully-covered dental insurance costs a company $576 a year and fully-covered vision insurance between $60 and $120 a year.

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The Eyelash of the Beholder: How Lashes Play a Vital Role for Your Eyes

Did you know your eyelashes have glands?eyelashes-a

Or that you might have mites on your eyelashes?

Some interesting facts about eyelashes include:

  • Eyelashes fall out daily. Sometimes, as many as five drop in one day.
  • You have more eyelashes on the upper lid than on the lower. The upper lid usually contains about 200, and the lower about 100.
  • Eyelashes vary in length, with the longest lashes at the middle of the upper lid.
  • The eyelash has two sets of glands: oil glands and sweat glands. The oil glands are named Glands of Zeis (after ophthalmologist Eduard Zeis), and the sweat glands the Glands of Moll (after oculist Jacob Anton Moll). The glands keep the follicles unclogged and the lashes bacteria-free.
  • For many people, tiny mites named Demodex live at the base of your eyelashes. They come out during sleep to eat dirt, debris and cells shed by lashes. In many instances, this is beneficial, as it keeps follicles from getting clogged, although too many Demodex can become problematic, causing eyelashes to fall out.

Who would have thought eyelashes could be so interesting?

But eyelashes are more than just interesting. They play important roles in eye health.

Love at First Sight: Some of the Beautiful Purposes of Eyelashes

Eyelashes can enhance the eyes. Some people claim the eye is the first feature we fall in love with, so eyelashes can make you seem more beautiful to others.

But they play more than just a beauty role.

One of their purposes is to minimize airflow over the eyeball, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Prolonged airflow on the eyes can dry them out.

Also, because the eyeball is exposed, eyelashes can keep out dirt, sweat and debris. This can prevent viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections.

Five Simple Ways You Can Keep Your Eyelashes Healthy

For your eyelashes to serve their greatest purpose, make sure you take good care of them. To do so, you can start in a few ways:

  • Thoroughly remove eye makeup each night. If you don’t, you risk too many Demodex (those eyelash mites) in your eyelashes.
  • Replace eye makeup more often than other kinds of makeup. Mascaras, along with other liquid or creamy products, are wet, dark and damp. That may seem obvious. What may not be as obvious is wet, dark and damp products are more prone to cause infection. Bacteria can thrive in them, especially if the products are exposed to air. As a result, most manufacturers recommend replacing mascara every two to four months, and keeping other eye makeups no longer than three months.
  • Don’t share your cosmetics or cosmetic eye tools. You are more likely to develop an eye infection by sharing cosmetics or cosmetic eye tools.
  • Avoid plucking. Eyelashes generally grow at a slower pace than most other hair on your body. If you pluck too many eyelashes out, you run a greater risk of dirt, sweat and debris getting into the eyes.
  • Practice basic wellness. By practicing basic wellness techniques, like proper hand washing and regular showering, you can prevent infections like styes. Styes are red, painful lumps near the base of your eyelid.

Not only can lashes accentuate your eyes and help you look more beautiful, they play an important role protecting your eyes. As you practice proper eye care, don’t forget your lashes!

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