Part Three: What Is the Relationship Between Oral Health and General Health and Well-being?
The next two chapters establish that oral health is essential to general health and well-being. Chapter 5 examines multiple linkages between oral and general health. The mouth and the face reflect signs and symptoms of health and disease that can serve as an adjunct for diagnosis for some conditions. Diagnostic tests using oral cells and fluids—especially saliva—are available to detect drug abuse, hormonal changes, and specific diseases; and more are being developed. The mouth is also a portal of entry for pathogens and toxins, which can affect the mouth and, if not cleared by the many defense mechanisms that have evolved to protect the oral cavity, may spread to the rest of the body. Recent epidemiologic and experimental animal research provides evidence of possible associations between oral infections—particularly periodontal disease—and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and adverse pregnancy outcomes, and this evidence is reviewed. The review highlights the need for an aggressive research agenda to better delineate the specific nature of these associations and the underlying mechanisms of action.
Chapter 6 looks at the impact of oral health problems on the quality of life and includes examples of the kinds of questionnaires used to measure oral-health-related quality of life. Oral health is highly valued by society and individuals, and the chapter begins with a brief description of the reflections of those values in myth and folklore concerning facial appearance and the meaning of teeth. It then explores dimensions beyond the biological and the physical to examine how oral diseases and disorders can interfere with the functions of daily living, including participation in work or school, and what is known about their psychosocial impacts and economic costs. The deleterious effects of facial disfigurement and tooth loss may be magnified in a society such as ours that celebrates youth and beauty. Self-reported impacts of oral conditions on social functions include limitations in communication, social interactions, and intimacy. Research on the oral-health-related quality of life is needed to permit further exploration of the dimensions of oral health and well-being.
Next: Chapter 5