Wisconsin Dental Association: During Family Wellness Month, dentists stress importance of proper dental care

CONTACT: Carol S. Weber, APR, Director of Public Relations

PHONE: 414-755-4108 (direct)

E-MAIL: [email protected]

WEST ALLIS, WIS., May 2, 2011 – Evidence shows that tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health complications may be linked to a variety of universal health conditions, yet many individuals and health care professionals are still unaware of this important mouth-body connection. This is according to a new report released by the Institute of Medicine that encourages greater initiative by federal agencies to improve oral health and oral health care in America. Wisconsin dentists are using the month of May – Family Wellness Month – to highlight the link between oral health and overall health and encourage people to make regular dental checkups a part of their family wellness program.

“There’s truth behind the old adage, ‘Be true to your teeth or they’ll be false to you,’” said Wisconsin Dental Association President Dr. Gene Shoemaker, a general dentist in Waukesha. “A healthy, attractive smile is the reward for a lifetime of good oral health habits. Beyond that, oral health is closely tied to overall health – ignore your mouth and you may risk other, serious problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes complications and oral cancer.”

Proper dental care should start during a child’s early years, Shoemaker said. Many people think baby teeth don’t matter because they eventually fall out. The truth is baby teeth do matter. Primary or baby teeth are very important to children’s physical, social and emotional development.

“Baby teeth are susceptible to cavities,” Shoemaker said. “Young children can develop dental infections that can become serious and spread quickly when not treated promptly.”

The good news is cavities are preventable and the WDA and your family dentist have information to help parents and caregivers keep children’s baby teeth healthy.

Good dental health is just as important to older adults’ overall health and well-being, Shoemaker said. Today, people are living longer and retaining more of their natural teeth, which increases the complexity of their dental treatment, according to the American Dental Association. With regular dental visits and overall healthy habits, adults can take control of their oral health and keep their teeth for life.

Unfortunately, many low-income Wisconsin residents – young and old – find it difficult to get needed dental care and/or adopt healthy lifestyle choices. The WDA has spent many years working with legislators and government agencies to promote programs that reduce barriers to care and asking them to support “healthy choices” legislation on behalf of their constituents.

“The most cost-effective way to pay for treatment of dental disease is to prevent the disease from developing in the first place,” Shoemaker said. “There continues to be a gap in the percentage of low-income individuals who access dental care compared to those with higher incomes or private insurance. The WDA and our member dentists work hard to educate patients about making healthy choices, including why it’s important to brush and floss every day and maintain a healthy, balanced diet. These simple actions prevent small oral health problems from turning into bigger, expensive health crises.”

The Wisconsin Dental Association was established in 1870. With more than 3,000 members statewide, the WDA represents 88 percent of all licensed dentists in Wisconsin. WDA members are committed to promoting professional excellence and quality oral health care. The WDA is headquartered in West Allis and has a legislative office in Madison. It is one of 53 constituent (state-territorial) dental societies of the American Dental Association – the largest and oldest national dental association in the world. For more information on the WDA, call 414-276-4520, visit our WDA.org website or find us on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.