Oral and dental care is a set of practices that help you enjoy a bright smile, a comfortable mouth and a strong, healthy body. It starts with good oral hygiene at home and regular visits to a Northbrook dentist for professional cleaning, exams and other restorative procedures. The better you take care of your teeth and gums, the less likely you are to have costly problems later in life.

Oral diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi in the mouth that are normally found there (the normal flora). When these organisms get into a cavity or inflame your gums, they produce acid that dissolves tooth enamel or causes a gum infection called gingivitis. If you don’t treat these infections, they can progress to more serious diseases that affect your heart, bones, kidneys and other parts of the body.

Many studies have shown that your oral health is linked to your general health. For example, people with diabetes have a higher risk of gum disease and can’t fight off infections as easily. And pregnant women with poor oral hygiene may have more complications, including premature birth.

The way to prevent and control oral diseases is to practice good oral hygiene, brush your teeth regularly, use dental floss and visit a dental health professional for X-rays and an exam at least twice each year. These appointments give your dental professionals the opportunity to catch and fix problems before they worsen.

Your dentist can also recommend fluoride treatments and provide sealants, in-office fluorides and instruction on personal hygiene. They can even teach you techniques to use at home, such as tongue scraping and rinsing with water.

If you have existing restorative work, such as fillings, crowns, dentures or implants, regular appointments keep them working well. For adults, regular visits can catch and treat early signs of periodontal or oral cancers. In addition, routine evaluations can help you plan for future needs, such as wisdom teeth removal and replacements and address changes in your bite.

State and federal laws and policies can reduce barriers to oral health care, especially for disadvantaged populations. For example, states can relax supervision requirements, allow teledentistry and make it easier for qualified dental providers to practice at federally qualified health centers where low income individuals are most likely to seek services. And they can promote the expansion of oral health coverage through Medicaid and other public programs. Research in this area can also help identify effective strategies to improve the quality and accessibility of oral health care.