The straight talk on good oral health

Ortho PhotoA smile is more than just for the camera. Smiling relaxes the nervous system, gives greater self-confidence and makes you – and those around you – feel comfortable. It’s an important part of looking good, feeling happy and being healthy.

When it comes to kids and teens, however, it can be like pulling teeth to get them to smile. Teens, especially, are concerned with their appearance and, if teeth are crooked, stained or they have malocclusions, they’re not lining up quickly to show off their toothy grins.

Give your kids and teens some oral health tips that will help provide a sparkling smile for years to come:

  • Brush teeth twice daily; preferably morning and before bed
  • Clean in between your teeth once a day with floss
  • Use a toothpaste with fluoride because it helps strengthen teeth enamel
  • Change your toothbrush every two to three months
  • Eat a vitamin- and mineral-rich diet, with fruits and vegetables, to help ward off gum disease
  • Finish a meal with a cube of cheese, if possible, to reduce the effects of acids that can damage teeth
  • Avoid sugary drinks for a snack. It’s best if these are consumed with meals
  • Visit the dentist every six months and see an orthodontist before the age of 7

Treat for the teeth

Dentists mainly clean people’s teeth, screens patients regarding their jaw and bite relationship, fill cavities and help patients keep their gums and mouth healthy. Since an important part of good oral health is good jaw and tooth structure, it’s also important to see an orthodontist, a doctor who provides services such as braces, jaw alignments and various malocclusion corrections that do everything from close gaps and straighten teeth to fix an improper bite and help speech or eating problems.

In fact, Health Net’s Medi-Cal health plan in Los Angeles County now includes a new orthodontic program that offers children and adults discounted services for orthodontic treatment. It’s a brand new program that gives members access to an exclusive network of Los Angeles County orthodontic specialists.

Dr. James Lee, one of Health Net’s contracted orthodontists, says that, by seeing an orthodontist, people of all ages are often alerted to other medical issues they might be facing.

“I’ve had patients come in for things like crooked teeth, but then reveal to me they also have pain or certain symptoms that indicate there’s more that’s medically needed than just teeth straightening,” explains Dr. Lee. “There’s a detailed medical history we talk about, which leads to discussion on certain symptoms and, ultimately, other health indicators that sometimes support the notion that something more might be going on than just what the patient thinks is an orthodontic issue.”

Both dentists and orthodontists give people more than just a healthy mouth and a nice smile when treatment is over.

“I’ve seen people’s self-esteem and confidence rise tremendously for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Lee. “Everyone should have the opportunity for good oral health and orthodontia treatment – it can be a game-changer for physical appearance and general health.”

For more information, members may call Health Net at 800-675-6110. Non-members may enroll by calling 800-327-0502 (TTY: 711).


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Lisa Finn