April is National Oral Health Month, with programs and educational information made available to the public by dentists and other health care professionals to emphasize the importance of oral health to overall well-being. Maintaining your health is important to quality of life, psychological well-being and longevity. Although people may see a doctor for pain, have regular check-ups and manage diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure or arthritis, many people don’t attend to oral health as conscientiously.
What Is Oral Health?
Oral health is not just taking care of your teeth. According to the World Health Organization, good oral health includes taking care of gums, tongue, throat, muscles, nerves and tissues inside and around the mouth.  Poor oral health not only can cause cavities or gum disease, it can cause pain, affect your looks and affect the way you feel about yourself.
Oral health problems can also be a sign of more serious health problems. Some studies have shown a correlation of gum disease with a higher incidence of heart disease and stroke.  Although experts debate whether improving oral health can contribute to a health heart, doctors agree that gum disease and heart disease share risk factors. Smoking, obesity, diabetes and inflammation are associated with higher incidences of both gum disease and heart disease.
Taking care of teeth is an important part of an oral health program. Teeth are important not only for chewing. They also affect facial structure and speech. Losing a tooth can change the way your face appears and may make pronouncing words more difficult.
How to Maintain Good Oral Health
Caring for your teeth is important in maintaining good oral health. Brush and floss regularly to remove food and prevent plaque from building-up. Have regular dental check-ups to make sure that your teeth, mouth and gums are healthy. Minimize acidic foods that can erode the enamel of teeth.
If you don’t have a dentist, ask your doctor or friends to recommend someone they have used and trust. A dentist or related specialist examines the entire area of the mouth and throat both inside and out for sores, tooth decay, gum disease, signs of cancer or birth deformities such as a cleft palate.
Some dentists specialize in particular aspects of treatment. Pediatric dentists work with children. Oral or maxillofacial surgeons perform surgical procedures such as removing teeth or treating cosmetic problems of the face and jaw. Orthodontists correct irregularly aligned teeth. If you or a family member is experiencing soreness of gums, tooth pain or other dental problems, see a dentist as soon as possible.