Oral health is so important to overall health that we cannot stress it more how important having regular checkups and cleanings done by a professional who will be able to identify any potential problems before they become serious.
Oral health is often taken for granted, but it is an essential part of our everyday lives. Good oral health enhances our ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow, and convey our feelings and emotions through facial expressions. However, oral diseases, which range from cavities to oral cancer, cause pain and disability for millions of Americans each year. For example,
Tooth decay (cavities) is a common, preventable problem for people of all ages. For children, untreated cavities can cause pain, dysfunction, school absences, difficulty concentrating, and poor appearance—problems that greatly affect a child's quality of life and ability to succeed. Children from lower-income families often do not receive timely treatment for tooth decay, and they are more likely to suffer from these problems.
Tooth decay is also a problem for many adults, and adults and children of some racial and ethnic groups experience more untreated decay.
Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection caused by bacteria that gets under the gum tissue and begins to destroy the gums and bone. Teeth become loose, chewing becomes difficult, and teeth may have to be extracted. Gum disease also may be connected to damage elsewhere in the body; recent studies link oral infections with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and premature, low-weight births. Further research is under way to examine these connections.
Oral Health Problems Are Preventable, Common, and Painful
Tooth decay affects more than one-fourth of U.S. children aged 2–5 years and half of those aged 12–15 years. About half of all children and two-thirds of adolescents aged 12–19 years from lower-income families have had decay.
Children and adolescents of some racial and ethnic groups and those from lower-income families have more untreated tooth decay. For example, 40% of Mexican American children aged 6–8 years have untreated decay, compared with 25% of non-Hispanic whites. Among all adolescents aged 12–19 years, 20% currently have untreated decay.
Advanced gum disease affects 4%–12% of U.S. adults. Half of the cases of severe gum disease in the United States are the result of cigarette smoking. The prevalence of gum disease is three times higher among smokers than among people who have never smoked.
One-fourth of U.S. adults aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth.
More than 7,800 people, mostly older Americans, die from oral and pharyngeal cancers each year. This year, about 36,500 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed.
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