The Importance of Oral Health

Why is Oral Health Important?

How important is your mouth- well if you ask me and I know I am a dentist- I would say (rather unsurprisingly)… very important indeed!

Let’s think about what we need to stay alive for a second. The most basic necessities are air, food and water- and how do we take these into our bodies… yep, through our beloved mouth. Now life would be pretty boring, awkward and difficult, without socializing and interacting with others when you’re out and about, at home or at work. So add to the fundamentals of life itself, the ability of the mouth to help us talk, smile, sing, kiss, laugh, taste, play instruments and blow raspberries, and you have a pretty good list if you ask me.

For those singles out there- bad breath is stated as the number one turnoff by the opposite sex in heaps of surveys and for families it is actually a big barrier for getting close to your kids who have very sensitive and keen noses.

Add this to the new research suggesting that gum disease may be linked to heart disease and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke, and you have overwhelming evidence for looking after your mouth.

It is the area of our body we use more than any other and is particularly sensitive and vunerable to two of the most prolific diseases known to man…

  • Periodontal disease or gum disease.

Tooth decay can take anything from a number of months, to a few years to progress to the point where a filling is needed. Gum disease on the other hand, often takes many many years (decades) before teeth start to become loose and painful. It is relatively symptomless, so this damage can go undetected for sometime if you are not regularly seeing a dentist, and the prognosis of your teeth can be considerably worse when you finally do.

Other worrying dental problems include:

  • Erosion of teeth– This is an increasing problem and I have it heard it referred to as the ‘Dental cancer of the 21st century’ because of the increasing number of cases we are seeing. It stems largely from an increase in the amount of fizzy drinks (both sugar and sugar free options), sugared teas, sports drinks and the juices people are having. It is estimated that in the UK some 50% of children are affected to some degree. Less frequently it is caused by gastric acid as a result of reflux, or sickness in pregnancy, bulimia or hiatus hernia.
  • Oral cancer– The number of oral cancer cases is still worryingly high and dentists lie at the forefront of detecting this life threatening disease- who else looks that closely inside your mouth? It is a bit difficult for us to spot anything suspicious though, if you don’t turn up regularly for your check up.
  • Bruxism or Grinding – This continues to be a real issue and can have a significant effect on the wear (particularly if combined with erosion) and the look of your teeth. Despite being the hardest substance in the human body- grating your teeth against each other night after night will take a serious toll – it’s just a matter of time.

The big thing with all these diseases is that they are largely preventable and it’s surprisingly easy to tip things in your favour, or at least limit their damage. Again, hard to do if your not attending the dentist and have no idea anything is wrong.

We have dedicated a whole series to prevention. It is in my mind, by far the most important part of this whole website, so please, do yourself a huge favour and take the time to learn about the easy steps you can take to ensure a lifetime of healthy teeth.

How do we Define Good Oral Health?

You might think it means clean teeth and healthy gums and that is certainly a good start.

Most oral health definitions however, extend way beyond this to something along the lines of:

‘Good oral health means having no active disease ( in your jaw bones, gums, tongue, lips, mucosa or teeth) and being able to speak, eat, smile and socialize without any pain, discomfort, or embarrassment’

The World Health Organization in 1948, issued the following definition of general health:

“A complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not just the absence of infirmity.”

Now your oral health is of course intimately related to your well being and so… It is simply not possible to be ‘healthy’ with out good oral health.