In the military, you knew the importance of maintaining your gear and making sure everything was in tip-top shape. As a veteran, you now have the responsibility to take care of something even more important: your health and the health of your family.
Part of doing this is maintaining your oral health. You probably understand the value of good oral hygiene: strong teeth, healthy gums and a winning smile. But what you might not realize is how strongly your oral health is tied to your overall health.
The Mouth-Body Health Connection
The Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health in America put it simply: "You cannot be healthy without oral health. Oral health and general health should not be interpreted as separate entities."
In fact, several chronic health conditions have been linked to poor oral health, including diabetes and heart disease. And while the evidence isn't conclusive, studies also have linked dental conditions such as gum disease to pneumonia, stroke and even an increased risk of heart attack.
Access to Care Is Key
Obviously then, an important part of maintaining your overall health is visiting the dentist regularly for care. And to ensure this happens, it's equally important to have access to affordable dental benefits. People with dental benefits visit the dentist more often, are more likely to take their children to the dentist and experience greater overall health than people without them, according to a National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) report.
Anyone enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care who doesn't qualify for free dental care due to their disability rating is able to purchase dental coverage through the VA, as is anyone enrolled in the VA's Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA). The VA Dental Insurance Program (VADIP) offers two plans: Dental Dental and Metlife.
Healthy Habits to Save Your Smile
Here are a few simple steps you can take to help ensure that your smile lasts for years to come.
Brush your teeth regularly. Brushing your teeth twice a day for a minimum of two minutes removes the plaque from your teeth and gums that can lead to cavities and gum disease.
Floss daily. Flossing removes plaque from between your teeth that your toothbrush can't reach. This plaque can harden into tartar and collect along your gumline, leading to oral health issues.
Drink enough water. Water flushes away harmful sugars and acids. It also helps prevent dry mouth, which can lead to cavities and gum disease. The Mayo Clinic recommends a half-gallon, or eight 8-ounce glasses, daily.
Replace your toothbrush regularly. An old or worn toothbrush is less effective at removing plaque than a new one. To ensure that your toothbrush always does a great job of cleaning your teeth, plan on replacing it every three months.
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