Many of us don’t put too much importance on our oral health. Sure, we brush our teeth when we wake up in the morning before going out, but more because we want to get rid of nasty morning breath and avoid embarrassment. However neglecting our oral health can have serious consequences later in life.
Dental neglect can start early in our childhood. Sometimes parents are not aware that kids need frequent dental visits because they think that kids’ teeth are not yet permanent anyway and will just fall out. However, failure to take care of your children’s teeth can lead to tooth decay and gum diseases that if left untreated, can lead to pain, infection and loss of function. These conditions can affect the child’s learning, communication, nutrition and other activities needed for normal growth and development. Dentists should explain the implications of the diseases and stress the importance of proper dental care to parents to make sure that their kids’ teeth are well taken care of to avoid future complications.
Dental neglect is a predictor of poor oral health not only in children, but also in adults. Individuals who do not practice good oral hygiene often do not have routine check-ups hence they develop more cavities, dental caries or tooth decays, toothaches and more missing teeth. Aside from poor oral health, dental neglect can lead to increased limitations of oral function and social and physical disabilities. Individuals who avoid professional dental care have lowered perceptions of their overall quality of life. They tend to avoid talking because of concerns about their appearance. This clearly shows that dental neglect can have negative outcomes not only in oral health but in overall functioning as well.
Dental neglect can also greatly impact the quality of life among the elderly. Pain from untreated caries, periodontal disease and dental abscesses, as well as damaged, discolored and missing teeth are some problems that they have to contend with. In addition, the effects of poor oral health on general health in the elderly is more evident. Malnutrition is common in the elderly because of the combination of dental problems and the decreased production of saliva. If their immune system is suppressed, oral infections can develop into more serious conditions like pneumonia. Moreover, recent studies have suggested a link between poor oral health and heart disease.
Clearly dental neglect affects us at any stage of our lives. It can affect us in our childhood and later in life and have devastating repercussions. It is never too late to start practicing good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth two times a day, floss at least once daily and go to your dentist every 6 months for your routine check-up and cleaning. You will be thankful that you did.