MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- With Dental Awareness Month coming to a close, there are a few tips station personnel should remember all year long.
“There are the common tips that anyone can do,” said Cmdr. Kathy Warner, officer-in-charge of the dental clinic. “Everyone should brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. It is also very important to have annual checkups and cleanings. They help track progress of damage to teeth,” she added.
“Dental cleanings not only clean your teeth,” said Warner. “During the cleaning, the hygienist will show you how to properly brush and floss.”
Improper brushing and flossing is a big problem, said Warner.
“The most common problems I see are gum disease, heavy plaque and tartar build-up,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael R. Sunico, a dental hygienist at the Station Dental Clinic. “These problems can be prevented and maintained by flossing and brushing properly on a daily basis.”
The cause of any type of tooth or gum damage is from bacteria in the mouth, said Warner.
Cavities and gum problems are diseases in the mouth. Brushing and flossing will reduce the chances of cavities and gum disease immensely.
Warner also warned that Marines, on average, take in too much sugar.
Marines consume too much sugar because of the high amount of sports drinks they consume, said Warner. After taking in a lot of sugar when brushing is not available, Warner suggests that Marines rinse their mouths out with mouthwash. If no mouthwash is available plain water should be used; it helps remove germs and sugar that may cling to the teeth.
According to Warner, tobacco is another big contributor to dental damage.
“Besides the fact that it can cause mouth and gum cancer, tobacco also constricts blood vessels,” said Warner, a native of Salina, Kan. “That makes it harder for every part of the body to heal, including the mouth.”
“Another big contributor to tooth and gum damage is eating carbohydrates,” said Warner. “Carbohydrates increase cavity risk,” said Warner. “Carbohydrates weaken the enamel on your teeth. When (carbohydrates) break down in the mouth, they produce high amounts of acid, which strips away enamel. The best thing to do is use a fluoride rinse gel.
“Fluoride incorporates into the enamel and strengthens teeth and fights early lesions,” Warner added. “It practically heals your teeth. It will assist your teeth in fighting off infections.”
Lastly, Marines need to ensure they are wearing protective gear for their teeth during physical activities, said Warner.
“Many Marines cause damage to their teeth by not wearing a mouth piece while they practice martial arts or play sports,” said Warner. “It is important to remember to put in a mouth piece for any type of physical activity that puts your teeth at risk.”
Dental Awareness Month is designed to remind everyone about their dental needs, said Warner.
“Dental Awareness is important because it provides our Marines and sailors the knowledge and upper hand in the prevention and in dealing with any future dental-related problems,” said Sunico, a native of San Diego.
“People have to go to the dentist,” said Warner. “However, it isn’t an everyday thought. Most people only think about the dentist when their teeth are in pain. So Dental Awareness Month helps remind everyone that they need to see a dentist whether they feel like it or not.”
“The most important part of oral hygiene is having the attitude to practice and apply proper hygiene care,” said Sunico. “Being a dental provider, I can teach my patient about oral hygiene care, but ultimately it is up to that Marine or sailor to apply it effectively to his or her needs.”