Meaning of Oral Health

Oral health refers to all aspects of the health and functioning of our mouth especially the teeth and gums. Apart from working properly to enable us to eat, speak, laugh (look nice), teeth and gums should be free from infection, which can cause dental caries, inflammation of gums, tooth loss and bad breath.

Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, is the most common disorder affecting the teeth. The main factors controlling the risk of dental caries are oral hygiene, exposure to fluoride and a moderate frequency of consumption of cariogenic foods.

Teeth are also affected by “tooth wear” or erosion. This condition is a normal part of aging where tooth enamel is lost due to exposure from acids other than those produced by plaque.

Attrition and abrasion are other forms of tooth wear. Attrition occurs when teeth are eroded by tooth-to-tooth contact such as teeth grinding. Abrasion is caused by external mechanical factors such as incorrect tooth brushing.

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is caused by infection and inflammation of the gingiva (gum), the periodontal connective tissues and the alveolar bone. Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.

Importance of oral health for general health and well being

The health of our teeth and mouth are linked to overall health and well-being in a number of ways. The ability to chew and swallow our food is essential for obtaining the nutrients we need for good health. Apart from the impact on nutritional status, poor dental health can also adversely affect speech and self- esteem. Dental diseases impose both financial and social burdens as treatment is costly and both children and adults may miss time from school or work because of dental pain.

Reasons for poor oral health

Poor oral health and childhood caries are a result of frequent feeding of sugary drinks and foods. Transmission of caries-causing bacteria from mothers to children through common practices, such as tasting infant’s food before feeding. Lack of fluoride and inadequate home care (lack of tooth brushing) also causes dental caries.

Access to oral health services may be lacking because of inability to pay for services, limited number of dentist, transportation problems and illiteracy resulting in problem of comprehending oral and medical conditions. Individuals with the greatest need for services also lack resources to finance dental care. Children from families without money are more likely to need for dental treatment than children with affluent parents. These children are advised to special centres.