Filed under: Oral health
Poor oral health adversely affects readiness and could cost you your career, but it’s something you can prevent. Despite advances in dental care and hygiene, deployed service members are still at risk for trench mouth—technically referred to as “necrotizing periodontal disease,” or NPD—a condition that can lead to painful ulcers, spontaneous gum bleeding, and a foul taste in the mouth. A variety of factors can contribute to poor oral health, so we offer a few solutions. And remember to visit your dentist regularly when you can.
- Poor hygiene
- When deployed, you may have little time for oral hygiene, making you fall out of your normal routine of brushing and flossing.
- Solution: Pack a few travel-size tubes of toothpaste, dental floss, and a travel toothbrush in your kit, and establish a routine as quickly as possible.
- Tobacco use
- Using tobacco products can lead to gum disease by reducing blood flow to your gums, which can lead to tooth loss and mouth infections.
- Solution: It’s never too late to quit. Check out these great tips to become tobacco-free.
- Poor nutrition
- Eating right can be challenging in the field. But not eating enough food or the right foods can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies that reduce your ability to fight oral infections.
- Solution: Although MREs can’t replicate the tastes of a home cooked meal, they’re nutritionally balanced to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Eat a variety of MREs and eat as many of the components as you can to make sure you get all the nutrients they provide
- Too much stress can adversely affect many aspects of performance and overall health, including dental health. Stress can cause dry mouth and sore, inflamed gums.
- Solution: Start learning how to reduce stress with the ideas in this article from HPRC.
The condition known as “dental caries” is the most common and chronic childhood illness, but you can help your child avoid it. Bacteria that build up on your children’s teeth and produce acid can destroy enamel and dentin, leading to decay, infection, and cavities. Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to prevent this.
- If your young child uses bottles, make sure you put your child to sleep without a bottle.
- Avoid continual use of a bottle or sippy cup, especially with fluids other than water.
- Limit sugary foods and drinks, and the latter should include only 100% juice.
- Allow less than 4–6 oz. of 100% fruit juice per day.
- Start brushing your child’s teeth twice a day as soon as their teeth are visible.
- Use no more than a pea size dot of fluoride toothpaste for children 3 and up and a dab the size of a grain of rice for younger children.
- Take your child to a dentist before the age of one.
- Parents and caregivers can spread bacteria to babies and children accidentally, so take care of your own teeth! And it’s a good idea not to put food or other items into your child’s mouth after they’ve been in your mouth, especially if you have a history of cavities.
If you use these simple tips, you can strengthen your child’s teeth throughout childhood. For more information, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics article “Brushing up on oral health: never too early to start.”