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Thursday, March 23, 2023

World Oral Day: ‘Strong link between the effects of oral diseases and general health’

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World Oral Health Day is observed globally on March 20 every year to raise awareness about the importance of oral health and its impact on overall well-being. The theme for World Oral Health Day 2023 is ‘Be Proud of Your Mouth.’

The theme highlights the importance of taking care of oral health and celebrating the role that our mouths play in our daily lives. Dr Ashima Goyal, Prof and head, Oral Health Sciences Centre, PGIMER, talking about the importance of a healthy mouth for a healthy body says that oral health and general health are closely linked, and poor oral health can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being. The mouth, adds the doctor, is the gateway to the body.

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“Do you clean your mouth every day and still face oral health problems? If the answer is yes, then you need to take care of your oral cavity in the right way. The focus this year is on the importance of caring for your mouth at every stage of life,” adds Dr Goyal.

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Oral diseases, while largely preventable, pose a major health burden for many countries and affect people throughout their lifetime, causing pain, discomfort, disfigurement, and even death. It is estimated that oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people worldwide. Untreated dental caries (tooth decay) in permanent teeth is the most common health condition according to the Global Burden of Diseases. Oral diseases are caused by a range of modifiable risk factors common to many non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including sugar consumption, tobacco use, alcohol use, and poor hygiene, and their underlying social and commercial determinants. Oral diseases such as dental caries, periodontal disease, tooth loss, oral mucosal lesions and oropharyngeal cancers, human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS)- related oral diseases, and orodental trauma are major public health problems worldwide.

Recent evidence has shown that there is a strong link between the effects of oral diseases and general health. The mouth is the visible gateway to the rest of the body and reflects what is happening deep inside. Dental caries, periodontal disease, precancerous lesions, and a few physiological phenomena like pregnancy have been linked to systemic disease. Likewise, the systemic disease can have an impact on oral health. There is a plethora of systemic diseases that have oral manifestations, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, respiratory infections, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, and nutritional problems. This is a bidirectional relationship, and the link is inflammation. Oral health problems can have an adverse effect on the quality of life and are more prevalent in older adults but are not caused by aging. Treatment for oral health conditions is expensive and usually not a part of universal health coverage (UHC).

WHO recently published a global review of oral health which emphasised that despite great improvements in the oral health of populations in several countries, global problems persist. This is particularly so among underprivileged groups in both developing and developed countries. “But most oral diseases are preventable at the early stages of development. Hence, with the improvement in understanding the oral disease pathology, public health dentists and other dental specialists are working dedicatedly for the motivation, provision of preventive services for the betterment of the oral health of the community,” sums up Dr Goyal.

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