Oral health is much more than just healthy teeth; it also includes the health of many other structures such as the gums, bones, muscles, glands, and nerves. In addition, oral health affects some of our most basic human functions, thereby shaping an individual’s self-image, outward appearance, and sense of well-being
These are tissues whose functions we often take for granted, yet they represent a very important part of how we communicate and the very essence of our humanity. They allow us to speak and smile; sigh and kiss; smell, taste, touch, chew, and swallow and convey a host of emotions through facial expressions.
In the coming decade, certain demographic changes will have to further emphasize the importance of the connection between oral health and overall health and well-being. For example, the combination of increased longevity with the aging of the baby boomer generation will contribute to rapid growth in the cohort of adults over age 65, a group that typically has higher rates of chronic disease and disability. Gum disease is very high in the over 65 age group, affecting most to some degree.
Many medical conditions may affect oral health, and vice versa. For example, the metabolic processes of diabetes mellitus can explain the increased destruction of tissue seen in diabetic periodontitis. Patients who suffer from diabetes experience much higher rates of loss of teeth and bone loss.
In turn, like other infections, periodontal disease has been shown to interfere with control of blood sugar levels. In diabetic patients, when they receive regular gum and dental care, they tend to be in better overall health and have lower medical costs.
Lastly, the connection between oral health and overall health can be seen in the case of oral and pharyngeal cancers. Over 54,000 cases of oral and pharyngeal cancers are diagnosed annually, and there are almost 8,000 deaths each year due to these types of cancer. Rates are twice as high in men than women. Early detection is key to survival.
See your dentist regularly, it’s part of your overall health!