Oral Health

The mouth is our primary connection to the world:  it is how we take in water and nutrients to sustain life, our primary means of communication, the most visible sign of our mood, and a major part of how we appear to others.  Oral health is an essential and integral component of people’s overall health throughout life, and is much more than just healthy teeth.  Oral refers to the whole mouth:  the teeth, gums, hard and soft palate, linings of the mouth and throat, tongue, lips, salivary glands, chewing muscles, and upper and lower jaws.  Not only does good oral health mean being free of tooth decay and gum disease, but it also means being free of chronic oral pain conditions; oral cancer; birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate; and other conditions that affect the mouth and throat.  Good oral health also includes the ability to carry on the most basic human functions, such as chewing, swallowing, speaking, smiling, kissing, and singing.
Because the mouth is an integral part of the human anatomy, oral health is intimately related to the health of the rest of the body.  For example, mounting evidence suggests that infections in the mouth, such as periodontal (gum) diseases, can increase the risk for heart disease, can put pregnant women at greater risk for premature delivery, and can complicate control of blood sugar for people living with diabetes.  Conversely, changes in the mouth often are the first signs of problems elsewhere in the body, such as infectious diseases, immune disorders, nutritional deficiencies, and cancer. 

Oral Health Factsheets