The World Health Organization describes Oral health as being free of chronic mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral sores, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay and tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that affect the mouth and oral cavity.
- The most common oral diseases are dental cavities and periodontal (gum) disease.
- 60-90% of school children worldwide have dental cavities.
- Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 5-20% of middle-aged adults; the rate varies across geographical regions.
- Incidence of oral cancer ranges from one to 10 cases per 100 000 population in most countries.
- Birth defects such as cleft lip and palate occur in around one per 500-700 of all births; the birth prevalence rate varies substantially across ethnic groups and geographical areas.
- 40-50% of people who are HIV-positive have oral fungal, bacterial or viral infections, which often occur early in the course of HIV infection.
- Traditional curative dental care is a significant economic burden for many high-income countries, where 5-10% of public health expenditure relates to oral health.
Oral diseases and chronic diseases can be decreased simultaneously by addressing common risk factors such as tobacco use and unhealthy diet:
- Decreased intake of sugars and well-balanced nutrition prevent tooth decay and premature tooth loss.
- Tobacco cessation and decreased alcohol consumption reduce risk for oral cancers, periodontal disease, and tooth loss.
- Fruit and vegetable consumption is protective against oral cancer.
- Effective use of protective sports and motor vehicle equipment reduces facial injuries.
Dental cavities can be prevented by a low level of fluoride constantly maintained in the oral cavity. Fluoride can be obtained from fluoridated drinking water, salt, milk, mouth rinse or toothpaste, as well as from professionally-applied fluorides. Long-term exposure to an optimal level of fluoride results in fewer cavities in both children and adults.
By using these prevention strategies, the high cost of dental treatments can be avoided.
It is essential to take care of teeth and engage daily in a practice of good oral hygiene. Good oral hygiene means teeth are clean and free of food debris, that gums are healthy and pink without pain or bleeding when brushing or flossing, and bad breath is not a common factor. Oral care is vital to good oral health which is important to overall general health.
Daily oral care should include brushing and flossing to prevent problems from developing. Regular visits with the dental team are also very important as they can assist you in learning techniques to maintain good oral health. The dental team are also able to identify potential problems before they become painful, worrisome and potentially expensive.