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Anishinaabe women are sacred, honored and revered because they bring new Anishinaabe babies to our tribes, and for their vital role in raising children. The earth’s energy powers the cycles of life, including the cycles of Anishinaabe women, the Anishinaabekwewag.

National Women's Health Week (NWHW ), 5/14 - 5/20, celebrated the health and well-being of all women. But in reality, every week should celebrate the women's well-being.

Healthy teeth…healthy woman…healthy tribe…healthy Anishinaabe! How can we achieve this goal?

  • Ideal physical health
  • Prevention
  • Stress management
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy eating

Ideal Health can be defined as the condition of being of sound body, mind, and spirit, with freedom from physical disease or pain.

There are many factors contributing to ideal health. Genetics plays a big part, which cannot be controlled. Why not control what each of us can to promote individual ideal health?

Dental disease contributes to premature births and low-birth weight. Healthy eating for mother and baby requires excellent dental health.

The Center for Disease Control states that Native American women die at a higher rate from pregnancy-related causes than in any other group of mothers. Our women’s health impacts the future of our Anishinaabe nations.

Prevention is key to optimal health. The early diagnosis and treatments of diseases results in better health outcomes for women.

Anishinaabe have a higher rate of diabetes than any other group.  Adhering to CDC recommendations to control diabetes can slow many severe effects.  Excellent dental health with a full complement of strong teeth and healthy gums enables diabetics to eat the recommended raw vegetables and fruits.  The American Dental Association states that dental disease makes blood sugar control so difficult.  When diabetes is not controlled, the human body will deteriorate more quickly.  A negative spiral begins when uncontrolled diabetes causes more tooth loss and gum deterioration; this makes eating raw vegetables and fruits and cooked protein more difficult.  Blood sugar levels then become hard to control.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in this country.  People with gum disease have two to three times the risk of experiencing heart attack disease and stroke.  

Obesity is a serious problem for all women.  Dental disease resulting in poor chewing ability can lead to a diet of soft, gooey, sugary, caloric foods which seem to be addictive.

Nearly one million American women will be diagnosed with cancer this year.  Early cancer detection saves many women’s lives. 

Cancers of the mouth are diagnosed and treated by dentists and oral surgeons and oncologists.  It is so important that all women see the dentist twice a year. Oral cancers include lip, tongue, roof-of-the-mouth, inside cheek, floor-of-the-mouth, jawbone, and salivary gland cancers. Tobacco, illegal drugs, and alcohol use increase the risk of all oral cancers.

Throat cancer rates have risen in the past two decades. These are most often caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, (HPV).  The HPV vaccine can prevent most of these cancers.

Stress affects the entire body. Preventing and managing stress improves the health of women.  There are many factors which cause stress: money problems, a long-term illness, taking care of family (add your own woes to this list).

Physical signs of stress can include Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD). If diagnosed early, the dentist can help stop damage to the teeth, gums, face and joints.  

Physical Activity improves health and can relieve stress. May is also National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, so this is a good time to start walking, swimming, biking, dancing, exercising, joining competitive sports and other activities. The key to better strength, endurance, and stamina is consistency. For any contact sport, a mouth guard is recommended for protection. If dental pain is present, women are less likely to exercise.

Healthy Eating always requires choosing healthy, whole foods. Women should limit the amount of junk foods eaten. Foods and beverages high in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium can contribute to many health problems, including poor dental health.  

Dr. Jessica A. Rickert

The digestive process begins in the mouth. The saliva has enzymes which start the breakdown of food. Excellent dental health with a full complement of strong teeth and gums starts the process. The chewing process macerates food so that the stomach and intestines can ideally extract the nutrients. Healthy choices include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk, yogurt, cheese, rice, seafood, lean meats, poultry, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and eggs.  These foods promote excellent dental health.

There are many recommended minerals, which include: Calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, and folic acid.  All vitamins, but especially vitamin B9, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for women to be healthy. These nutrients can be found in whole foods. 

Women do have unique nutritional needs, during different stages of life, such as adolescence, during pregnancy and breastfeeding or after menopause

Water and milk supply all the body needs to have strong teeth, healthy saliva, hydrated gums and strong bones and muscles.

Anishinaabekwewag’s love and care for the Anishinaabe is greatly esteemed. My challenge to you is to love yourself enough to improve your health this month!

Dr. Jessica A. Rickert is a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, in 1975, she became for the first female Native American dentist.

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About The Author
Author: Jessica A. RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.