College of DuPage Nursing student Elena Popa shared with Healthy Lombard that a nice smile has been a hard-to-achieve beauty standard for a long time. However, recently it has recently become more accessible and easy to achieve; something more than just aesthetics. Yet, today, with modern technology, an estimated 26% of adults have untreated tooth decay, and 46% show signs of gum disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). However, many people are still uneducated about the importance of a healthy smile in addition to a smile that is pretty.
The relationship between oral health and the general well-being of the human body may not be obvious, but it is actually quite important. As part of immune system function, humans have normal flora in their mouths. However, if the buccal cavity is unclean the flora multiply, and harmful effects such as tooth decay and gum disease may result. The mouth is a gateway to the digestive and respiratory tracts which means that bad oral care can lead to other diseases that may be seemingly unrelated. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2018), in Illinois, approximately 68.1% of adults visited the dentist; pretty good but still leaves room for improvement (CDC, 2018).
Diseases that are related to poor oral health may include: (Mayo Clinic, 2019):
- Endocarditis: When bacteria from other parts of the body, like your mouth, travel through the bloodstream into the heart
- Cardiovascular disease: Inflammation and infection can cause heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke
- Pregnancy and birth complications. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
- Pneumonia. Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
But it is not all doom and gloom: there are easy ways to prevent disease in the oral cavity by brushing twice a day and flossing, using mouthwash, eating a healthy diet, replacing the toothbrush every three months, avoiding the use of tobacco, and scheduling regular dental checkups and cleanings (Griffin et al., 2009).
Although the consideration of oral care as a strategy to prevent disease is not recognized as much as other aspects of well-being, it is not only a simple intervention but one that is very important for overall health. A healthy smile is more significant than a pretty one.
CDC, organization. (2020, December 2). Adult oral health. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/adult-oral-health/index.html.
Griffin, S. O., Barker, L. K., Griffin, P. M., Cleveland, J. L., & Kohn, W. (2009). Oral health needs among adults in the United states with chronic diseases. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 140(10), 1266–1274. https://doi.org/10.14219/jada.archive.2009.0050
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, June 4). Oral health: A window to your overall health. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475.