Oral health

Oral health is essential to overall health


Oral health refers to the health of the entire mouth (oral cavity), including the jaw bones, teeth, gums, lips, inner lining of the lips and cheeks, the chewing muscles, roof and floor of the mouth, tongue, salivary glands, tonsils and adenoids (immune system), and pharynx (throat).

Oral health means being free of chronic oral-facial pain conditions, oral and pharyngeal cancers, oral soft tissue lesions, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, and other diseases and disorders that affect the oral, dental, and craniofacial tissues (craniofacial complex) such as:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Periodontitis
  • Tooth loss
  • Oral-dental trauma

The mouth can also reveal signs of poor nutrition and diseases. Research has shown associations between chronic oral infections and heart and lung diseases, stroke, preterm and low-weight births, and diabetes.

Oral health disparities exist

Overall, Minnesota has one of the highest dental sealant rates in the country, and most Minnesota residents have access to cavity-fighting fluoridated tap water from the Community Public Water Supply.

However, significant disparities exist for low-income children and adults, people of color, and older adults-all of whom disproportionately suffer from dental diseases and oral conditions, largely due to barriers of limited access to and availability of oral health services, lack of awareness of the need for care, oral health literacy, cost or fear of dental procedures.

You can prevent dental diseases

To maintain clean, healthy teeth and gums:

  • Visit a dentist at least once a year to prevent tooth decay and identify dental diseases and oral conditions early. Early treatment is usually less painful and less expensive.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day: once in the morning and once at night, especially after meals.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Fluoride: drink fluoridated tap water and use fluoridated toothpaste and rinses. Fluoride can prevent tooth decay.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages (soda or pop) and alcohol; eat less high sugar foods to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and cancer.
  • Avoid using recreational tobacco to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and cancer.
  • Have a dentist place dental sealants on children's permanent molar teeth to prevent cavities.
  • Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports to avoid injury.

Advancing oral health for all Minnesotans

The Minnesota Oral Health Program works with partners throughout the state to reduce the prevalence and effect of dental diseases and oral health conditions. It also works to enhance oral health care access and address oral health disparities in Minnesota.


Case Study: Service Gap Filled with New Dental Clinic
Learn more




Minnesota Oral Health Statistics System

The Minnesota Oral Health Statistics System (MNOHSS, pronounced "minnows") provides timely, accessible, easy-to-navigate, understandable and actionable online state and county oral health data through the Minnesota Public Health Data Access portal. MNOHSS allows users to identify health disparities, track trends in disease and service use, identify unmet needs, and target resources more efficiently.

Please send questions or comments to:health.oral@state.mn.us.

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