City Health Information
Volume 32 (2013) New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene No. 1; 1-6


Promoting Oral Health
  • Caries and periodontal disease can largely be prevented by limiting sugar intake, brushing teeth twice daily, and flossing daily.

  • Examine the mouth for signs of oral disease and assess oral health risks, such as poor oral hygiene and alcohol or tobacco use.

  • Educate patients about good oral hygiene and regular dental visits and make referrals as appropriate.


Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the most common threats to oral health. Behaviors such as smoking and heavy alcohol use put people at increased risk for oral and throat cancers, and conditions such as diabetes put people at higher risk for periodontitis. Maternal oral health may impact birth outcomes as well as infant oral health; dental care and prevention during pregnancy may decrease transmission of caries-causing bacteria to the newborn and reduce risk of early childhood caries in the infant. Primary care providers can improve patients' oral health by assessing their risks, educating them about preventive oral health care, and referring them to dentists as appropriate.