Many of us are familiar with the basics: brushing twice a day, flossing, staying away from sugary foods and drinks, and visiting your dentist in Northbrook for regular cleanings and checkups. These are crucial for preserving the health and beauty of your teeth and gums. But oral health is more than a smile-it’s a gateway to overall well-being.

Achieving optimal oral health allows us to chew and speak, which is important for a variety of life activities including eating, socializing, learning, and self-expression. It also helps us stay physically healthy by allowing us to maintain a normal blood pressure, temperature and the ability to fight infection.

Oral diseases like cavities and periodontal (gum) disease cause pain, suffering, and loss of quality of life. They affect millions of people and cost the nation’s healthcare system billions of dollars each year. Fortunately, these problems can be prevented by good dental hygiene, brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, eating a balanced diet, avoiding sugary foods and drinks, using mouthwash and/or floss, and visiting the dentist for routine visits as recommended.

When a person has poor oral health, it can impact other aspects of their lives including their work, family, and social life. Oral health problems can exacerbate other medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and they can also affect pregnancy complications.

For example, a toothache and the gum inflammation that accompanies it can make it difficult to eat, which can interfere with a person’s nutritional needs. The inflammation can also increase the risk of developing infections that can spread from the mouth to other parts of the body.

Research shows that an individual’s overall well-being is directly related to their dental health. Therefore, whole-person, patient-centered care that incorporates oral health is crucial to improve patient’s quality of life and enables them to achieve a healthier future.

Despite its importance, many individuals do not understand the link between oral and general health, which can lead to neglect of their dental hygiene practices and a diminished focus on overall healthcare. This can result in costly and disabling dental and related health issues.

In addition, the lack of access to affordable dental care often impacts vulnerable communities. Hispanics, Blacks, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and low-income individuals are more likely to be uninsured and to receive worse dental health outcomes than Whites and those with higher incomes. Increasing accessibility and understanding the link between oral and overall health are key to addressing these inequities. By promoting better awareness and education on the importance of oral health, as well as by making dental care more accessible to underserved populations, we can help reduce these inequities. This will result in improved outcomes and a healthier nation for everyone.