JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
October is National Dental Hygiene Month, an effort to celebrate the work dental hygienists do and help raise awareness of the importance of good oral health.
Dental hygienists provide preventative oral care under a dentist’s supervision. They clean patients’ teeth and examine their mouths for signs of disease and damage.
“We do more than just scrape and polish teeth and tell you to floss all the time,” said Ashley Draudt, 359th Aerospace Medical Squadron Dental Flight dental hygienist. “Dental overall supports the Air Force mission by ensuring readiness. A dental hygienist’s role is to screen for any diseases that may become a problem while a member is deployed.”
What some people don’t know is how oral health can affect the health of the rest of the body. A dental hygienist knows that oral health evaluations can be as important as other medical examinations.
“We are trained extensively on systemic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and autoimmune disorders,” Draudt said. “We know how these diseases affect oral health; alternatively we can identify problems we may see in the mouth as potential for systemic diseases and point you in the right direction to follow these concerns up with your primary care team.”
Additionally, some medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and help protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that could lead to disease.
Oral care is about more than just the color of a person’s teeth. When focusing on aesthetics people may miss out on key aspects of oral health. Keeping their teeth healthy is very important to chew food, pronounce words and maintain the contours of their face.
“Daily effective brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing can prevent dental diseases,” Draudt said. “We aren’t just saying these things at every appointment for fun. Some people have genetic factors or health factors that already increase their risk for dental diseases; but with daily effective brushing and flossing the risk will stay lower.”