Everyone wants to have a "bright, beautiful smile," but the benefits of good oral hygiene go beyond mere appearances. Taking proper care of the mouth is an integral part of general health and well-being. Poor oral health practices and untreated oral conditions can lead to a host of other health problems.
Improper oral hygiene is a direct cause of dental caries, gingivitis, halitosis, and, in some cases, denture discomfort.1 According to the American Dental Association, many studies indicate a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke, cardiovascular disease, and preterm low-birth-weight babies. Furthermore, >90% of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations.2 Other diseases that may be affected by periodontal infections include diabetes mellitus, respiratory infections, and osteoporosis.
The Role of the Pharmacist
As the role of pharmacists continues to evolve as major partners in health care, they are in a key position to enlighten patients about the importance of establishing effective oral hygiene routines. They should encourage patients to routinely visit the dentist and inform patients about the many oral care products available on the market (Table 1). These products include various formulations of dentifrices, flosses, fluoride products, and mouth rinses (Table 2).
Pharmacists should attempt to identify and effectively counsel patients who are at risk of developing periodontal disease? either those whose adverse dental effects are associated with certain medications or those whose medical conditions may be affected by periodontal disease. For example, gingivitis or gingival bleeding can be associated with the use of certain medications, such as calcium channel blockers, cyclosporine, and phenytoin. Gingivitis is often seen in women, because hormone fluctuations can cause this condition to develop. Many medications can cause varying degrees of adverse dental effects, such as xerostomia, tooth discoloration, or abnormal bleeding or inflammation of the gum tissue.
It is imperative that pharmacists educate patients about oral health care to prevent or reduce the incidence of dental diseases, thus positively impacting their patients' overall health. For more information on oral health care, visit the American Dental Association Web site at www.ada.org.