MYTH: Having poor oral health isn’t such a big deal.
FACT: Poor oral health has been linked to many systemic illnesses and also affects confidence, self-esteem, ability to eat, speak, smile, school attendance, learning and performance.
A growing body of evidence continues to report the connection between people’s oral health and systemic health. The mouth is a gateway to the body and proper and routine dental care, or lack thereof, can have a direct influence on people’s overall health and quality of life.
But first, let’s look at the prevalence of dental disease:
- Dental caries (cavities) remain the most common chronic childhood disease in the United States.
- Nearly half (46%) of all adults aged 30 years or older show signs of gum disease in the United States.
In Florida, approximately one in four third graders have untreated cavities, making Florida the fourth worst state in the nation for this oral health metric. Florida leads the nation in the number of individuals living in Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas.
Now, let’s look at why oral health is so important.
Poor oral health has been linked to a number of systemic health outcomes: heart disease and heart attack, diabetes, stroke, respiratory health, pneumonia, pregnancy outcomes, HPV, blood pressure and kidney disease. For example, people with moderate to severe gum disease were found to have a significantly increased risk of suffering their first heart attack. Research shows that people with gum disease are twice as likely to have a stroke caused by hardening of large arteries. Furthermore, strong evidence was found of a bidirectional association between diabetes and gum disease where diabetes can increase the risk and severity of gum disease and vice versa.
Poor oral health can affect people’s ability to eat a balanced diet, speak and smile. It can also affect one’s confidence and self-esteem. Specifically in children, pain and infection caused by poor oral health, can result in problems with school attendance, learning and school performance. Children and adolescents with poorer oral health are more likely to experience dental pain, miss school and perform poorly in school.
More than 10,000 papers have been written on the relationship between overall health and systemic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and tens of millions of research dollars have been expended, all in the search for greater clarity in our understanding of the precise interactions of oral and systemic diseases. The vast majority of literature supports that having poor oral health IS a big deal because it reflects the health of the entire body!