October is National Dental Hygiene Month and local health and dental officials say don’t wait until something hurts to be seen.

The Livingston County Health Department is reminding residents about the importance of good dental hygiene and dental health, which includes forming good habits. That includes regular trips to the dentist to help identify any problems early on, which can become painful and costly later on. Allison Restauri is a registered dental hygienist who lives locally and says being prevention specialists, they try to prevent things from happening. She says if something doesn’t hurt right away, people will put things off but the issues can quickly morph into worse problems, and then they feel bad or ashamed because they haven’t been in.

Restauri also teaches at an area dental school and community college. With regard to tooth pain, children will often miss school but other issues can become serious in older adults. She says people will come in for what they think is just a cleaning but students end up educating the patient about nutrition, inflammation and irritation in the mouth and how it can lead to other things. In some cases, she says students have actually found some indicators of other health issues and led to doctor referrals, later to learn they were pre-diabetic.

Restauri says it’s important to take a pro-active approach to dental health throughout your lifespan, which is necessary for overall health but the amount of need and the lack of care that some patients have had is really surprising.

Restauri says its critical children see an oral health specialist by their first birthday but also vital that senior citizens continue dental care, as needs change with age. She says there is still a need in Livingston County with the under-served and children, noting there are oral health care providers in the area that donate time and other offices that do free or low-income based care, including VINA Dental Clinic and the new dental center through the Livingston County Health Department. Restauri says there are great resources locally and it takes all of those to make a difference.

Various tips and information are available on the Livingston County Health Department’s website through the link provided. (JM)