Reader ‘s opinion Taking care of oral health promotes overall health

Municipal welfare plans should include clear health promotion goals, including oral health.

In Finland almost everyone knows that dental cleanliness is a key prerequisite for maintaining oral health. However, regular brushing of teeth is not a social norm to be adhered to without making exceptions. Thus, teeth are brushed more lazily in Finland on average than in OECD countries such as Finland. This is especially true for boys and adult men.

In the past, brushing teeth has been primarily seen as a way to prevent tooth decay. Indeed, the risk of cavities is clearly reduced if they are brushed with fluoride toothpaste twice a day for at least two minutes. However, it is even more important for overall health that good oral hygiene also helps to combat periodontitis, which destroys dental connective tissue.

Periodontitis predisposes to many serious public diseases, such as atherosclerosis and related heart and cerebral infarctions, the consequences of which can be life-threatening. Taking care of oral hygiene is therefore also important for overall health.

Oral health is best maintained through a healthy lifestyle that includes avoiding snacks between meals, using water as a thirst quencher, and maintaining good oral hygiene. Healthy lifestyles are best learned in early childhood. That is why investing in health counseling for children and families with children is important.

A child’s toddler’s teeth are more likely to be brushed the better the parents take care of their own teeth. If both parents brush their teeth twice a day, it is likely that the baby’s teeth will also be well taken care of.

Counseling could play a more central role in promoting dental self-care if the necessary conditions are in place. The time resources of counseling staff per child and family are often so small that there is not enough time for individual lifestyle guidance for families. Adequate human resources and opportunities for appropriate in-service training would improve the ability of clinics to promote the oral health of children and their parents and thus their overall health.

Municipal welfare plans should include clear health promotion goals, including oral health. Adequate funding should be set aside for their implementation and the achievement of the objectives should be systematically assessed. In the activities of municipalities and future welfare areas, special attention should be paid to strengthening health promotion and the skills needed to manage it.

Tiina Mäenpää

chairman,

Finnish Nurses’ Association

Hannu Hausen

Professor Emeritus,

Finnish Dental Association

Reader opinions are speeches written by HS readers, selected and delivered by HS editorial. You can leave a comment or read the principles of the writing at www.hs.fi/kirjtamielipidekirjoitus/.

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