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Oral Health: The Full Body Connection

Your mouth performs a range of important daily activities such as eating, drinking, talking and smiling. But did you know that your mouth can also provide clues to other diseases? Dentists can act as disease detectives by simply examining your mouth, head and neck for signs and symptoms that may point to more serious health issues.

During routine checkups, dentists not only look for cavities and gum disease, but also monitor symptoms like breath odor, unexplained sores and tooth erosion. In fact, 90 percent of common diseases have oral symptoms that can be detected in the dental chair.1 If certain signs are detected, dentists can urge patients to seek medical attention to help better manage their oral health and overall health.

Regular checkups and cleanings (even while pregnant) also help dentists detect oral health problems earlier, when they are more easily and affordably treated. To keep smiles healthy and happy, adults should continue with the same routine they grew up with. Brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss daily, and rinse with mouthwash.

It’s important to remember that just because you haven’t had a cavity or any tooth pain recently, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are in the clear. Be sure to visit your dentist regularly to ensure your oral and overall health are in good standing.

To learn more about the oral and overall health connection, and to watch a short video, visit www.deltadentaloh.com/detectives.

1 Dental Care and Oral Health Information You Need, Academy of General Dentistry, www.knowyourteeth.com/print/printpreview.asp?content=article&abc=w&iid=320&aid=1291, accessed June 2013.

2 Little, James W., Falace, Donald A., Miller, Craig S., & Rhodus, Nelson L. (2008). Dental Management of the Medically Compromised Patient (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.

(CNN) -- Who's the worst at protecting their skin from the sun and skin cancer, men or women? Men are, according to the latest study on sunscreen use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Only 14.3% of men said they regularly used sunscreen.

But women don't win any awards for their efforts either.

Only 29.9% apply it to their face and bodies on a regular basis. And more than a third of both sexes who do use sunscreen weren't sure whether the type they used provided broad-spectrum protection needed to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

"UVB are higher energy and are responsible for sunburn," explained senior analyst Sonya Lunder of the Environmental Working Group, a research advocacy group that publishes a list of best and worst sunscreens every year. "UVA rays are lower energy and are more constant year round, can go through glass and they are related to skin aging, known to depress the immune system, and are linked to melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer."

Not surprisingly, the study found more women use sunscreen on their face than other parts of the body. Yet melanoma is most often found on the trunk of the body, says Dawn Holman, a behavioral scientist in CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.

Melanoma is the third most-common cancer in adolescents and young adults, and costs our society over $3.3 billion each year. According to the surgeon general's report on skin cancer, "If current trends in cancer death rates continue, melanoma will be the only cancer objective included in Healthy People 2020 that will not meet the targets for reductions in cancer deaths."

Protect yourself

One key goal that research supports: avoid sunburns, no matter your age. The prevailing wisdom that childhood sunburns are what lead to future melanoma was overturned by this analysis. In fact, the risk actually increases throughout life with each additional sunburn.

"Each phase of life matters, so even if you've never used sunscreen in the past, you're still going to reap benefits by starting today," said Holman. "By staying sun-safe and avoiding sunburn, you still have a chance to reduce your risk."

Fortunately, it's easy to shield yourself from the sun. Try to stay out of it during the hottest times of the day, usually 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and apply a protective amount of sunscreen every two hours.

But not all sunscreens are created equal, says Consumer Reports. They tested 34 sunscreens in their in-house lab and reported on 2015's best and worst picks for their online and magazine subscribers.

Almost a third of the sunscreens tested had SPF (sun protection factor) below what was promised; they did find 15 to recommend, and named the following as the "Best Buy":

  • No-Ad Sport SPF 50 lotion for $10

But the FDA thinks you may want to reconsider spray-on sunscreens. Yes, they are convenient, and easier to put on squirming kids, but the FDA has raised concerns that consumers may not apply enough spray to reach the full SPF value. The Environmental Working Group agrees. They've added sprays to the "Hall of Shame" section of their 2015 sunscreen review.

"You may not be getting the sun protection you think you are, and they can be inhaled and we don't know what they do to the sensitive tissues of the lungs," said Lunder. "The FDA has requested data from sunscreen manufacturers and says that if that data doesn't allay their concerns they will soon ban sprays from the market."

Holman agrees. "With lotions you know how much you are applying to your skin, and that's important because you want to know that you are putting on an adequate amount to protect your skin."