The Oral Health Crisis in the United States

Editors Note: This post was written by Project32 Student Volunteers Mike Hart and Peter Ye. More content from our amazing Student Volunteers will be coming soon! – Avi

Have you ever had a day where your hair was just awful and you felt horrible about it? Have you ever had a day where you didn’t brush your teeth and were too afraid of your stinky breath? Well, 28% of adults in Oregon have such bad oral hygiene that they avoid smiling in public. 23% of adults get anxious from the cleanliness of their mouth and teeth. No adult should have to feel this way. The dentist’s office has become a place of fear for many. 26% of adults in Oregon are too afraid to go the dentist, due to their dental hygiene status.

Lack of access to dental care and poor brushing and flossing habits are the largest causes of the untreated cavities that plague 31.6% of middle aged adults that have untreated cavities. Poor dental health is especially prominent in communities of low household income. In these communities, over half of adults report life isn’t quite as fulfilling because of their teeth. Something as simple as dental health shouldn’t keep us from living our lives to the fullest. Luckily, the solution to almost all dental problems is simple: brushing your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day.

In order for brushing and flossing to be truly effective, they must be habitual. Effective, long-lasting oral health begins in childhood with the integration of dental hygiene into our daily routines. Unfortunately, today’s children are more susceptible to poor dental hygiene habits than adults. In the United States, 1 in 5 children from the ages of 5 to 11 has at least 1 untreated cavity. Low income adolescents from ages 5 to 19 are twice as likely to have tooth decay compared to children in higher-income families. The pervasiveness of poor oral health habits in lower-income communities highlights the critical role parents play a role models to their kids:if parents exhibit poor dental hygiene habits, their kids will also have poor oral health, and will grow up to pass these habits on. Further contributing to the problem is the fact that, many working parents lack time or resources to teach their kids dental health habits and to ensure that tasks like brushing and flossing are performed consistently. This is where Project32 comes into play. We work to educate kids about the importance of oral health, and to provide underserved youth with the resources and habits to take care of their teeth.. Ultimately, the habits Project32 youth learn will evolve into lifelong habits that persist to adulthood, allowing them to ultimately educate their children.  By taking a holistic, youth-driven approach to dental hygiene, Project32 hopes to combat the epidemic of poor oral health by using the power of youth-to-youth education to inspire community-wide change.

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