Interdisciplinary Approaches to Promote Adolescents' Oral Health and Reduce Disparities

Research adoption of preventive oral health practices

As a leading manufacturer of sugarfree gum, Mars recognizes the complexity and severity of poor oral health. For decades we have been committed to collaborating with oral health experts to better understand and advance science in this area for the benefit of consumers, as well as the scientific and public health communities.

 

Poor oral health status affects the lives of individuals at all ages and socioeconomic levels across the country. Untreated dental caries and missing teeth can lead to pain, infection, speech impairments, and lost days of work or school. In addition to the personal and economic losses incurred by dental caries, individuals are often unable to consume the nutrient-dense foods recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for all Americans (DGAs) to maintain a healthy diet. It has been shown that the incidence of dental caries can be reduced through education and adoption of routine preventive oral health practices. Prevention practices could reduce the incidence of emergency room visits for dental care and other issues.

 

As you are aware, dental health issues affect Americans throughout their life span. Today, children and adolescents from two to 19 years old and adults age 65 years old, in particular, face consequences from poor oral health. We request the NIDCR undertake oral health research initiatives to increase understanding of the barriers to prevention in at-risk and hard-to-reach adolescents and developing preventive options that are more impactful for these populations. This research would help identify best practices for increasing uptake of preventive behaviors in adolescent populations such as following a daily oral hygiene routine, including brushing their teeth at least twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste, cleaning between their teeth where possible, chewing sugarfree gum for 20 minutes after meals or snacks, and drinking fluoridated water where available. Untreated tooth decay in adolescence can lead to infection or impair development milestones related to speaking, social interaction, and learning. Conducting research to identify ways to increase adoption of preventive oral health practices can help our nation address these deleterious health consequences reduce barriers to meeting nutrition requirements.

 

Mars appreciates the opportunity to submit these comments and fully supports NIDCR's nationwide focus on oral health research initiatives. Improving the oral health of Americans should continue to be a national priority by the federal government. In the next five years, more research should be focused on practical preventive changes that will help prevent diseases such as periodontitis and dental caries that affect many Americans. Please consider Mars a resource as you move forward in your research prioritization process.

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Comment No. 350