The Importance of Oral Health in Overall Health
The mouth is now recognized as a portal of entry for many infections that affect overall health, including both physical health and emotional health. Among these infections are the two leading dental diseases, caries (decay), and periodontal disease (gum disease), both of which remain common and widespread, affecting nearly everyone at some point in the life span. Good oral hygiene is one of the most important factors in decreasing the risk for these two dental diseases.
The consequences of caries and periodontal diseases are profound and often underestimated in terms of their negative impact on physical health and emotional health. Although periodontal disease starts as a local infection in the mouth, it is generally accepted that associated bacteria and toxins gain access to the body’s blood supply and travel throughout the body. This also creates a systemic inflammatory response which may increase the risk for heart disease, pneumonia, and complications of diabetes and pregnancy. In people with weakened immune systems, untreated periodontal diseases also make it more difficult to treat certain diseases, like diabetes.
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Pain, suffering, and eventual tooth loss, from untreated caries and/or periodontal disease interfere with functions such as breathing, tasting, eating, swallowing, sleeping, speaking and language development- all vital to health and development. Poor oral health is also associated with emotional stress. Children’s school attendance and learning and adults’ work place performance may also be negatively impacted. People with oral pain or missing teeth are often limited in what they can chew, resulting in poor nutrition because they are restricted in food selection.
Simply put, you cannot be healthy without oral health. Taking care of your mouth, with good oral hygiene, reduces the risk of caries and periodontal disease, and helps to preserve good physical and emotional health.
Reference: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Cranial Research, National Institutes of Health; 2000.
Hein founded the first journal on this subject, Grand Rounds in Oral-Systemic Medicine, and was the principal originator and lead author on The Report of the Independent Panel of Experts of the Scottsdale Project.