WHAT IS ORAL HEALTH
Because oral health is an integral part of general health, oral health and general health are inseparable. This infers that oral health is more than just healthy teeth. Many diseases that affect the entire body, present signs in the mouth first – from nutritional deficiencies to general infection; and many mouth conditions have a direct effect on the health of the body. Although we often take the mouth for granted, it allows us to smile, speak, chew, swallow, touch, taste, kiss, sigh, cry, and express a world of feelings and emotions through our expressions. In keeping with one of the broadest definitions of health, oral health is considered multifaceted and encompasses a complete state of well-being (not just the absence of disease, defect, or pain) involving the entire functional, aesthetic, physiologic, and psychosocial state of the craniofacial complex which is essential to an individual’s quality of life.
- The American Dental Association
- The National Institutes of Health
- The FDI Dental World Federation
TWO OF THE MOST COMMON DISEASES OF MANKIND ARE ORAL DISEASES
Both gum disease (periodontal disease) and tooth decay (dental caries) are the most common diseases in the world. According to The World Health Organization, tooth decay and gum disease have historically been considered the most important global oral health burdens and largely reflect distinct risk profiles across countries related to living conditions, lifestyles, and the implementation of preventive oral health systems. Their impact on individuals and communities is considerable as a result of the pain and suffering, impairment of function, and reduced quality of life they cause.
The mouth is filled with many different living organisms and their site-specific communities known collectively as the “oral biome”. This community of organisms coats the teeth, tongue, gums, and other places in the mouth with a sticky adhesive film called dental plaque or biofilm. Some of the organisms that comprise plaque biofilm are innocuous and helpful, while others are harmful, disease-causing, pathogens. Every individual’s oral biofilm profile is as specific to them as their own fingerprint. Specific bacteria in the biofilm are the organisms involved in the progression of dental diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease. The root causes of which are: biofilm imbalance or infection, poor saliva or inadequate saliva flow, a destructive diet with frequent snacking and acidic drinks, and poor home care or wrong home care routine.
Oral diseases share a core group of modifiable risk factors with the four most prominent noncommunicable diseases – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases; modifiable means these are preventable risk factors that are related to lifestyles. Additionally, some of the same oral pathogens that cause gum disease and tooth decay can pose a significant threat for heart diseases, having been found on heart valves, in coronary arteries, and invading blood vessel walls; still other oral pathogens have been implicated in a multitude of systemic infections and complications.