In 2002, United States Surgeon General David Sacher released the first ever Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines oral health as a state of being free from chronic mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral sores, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay and tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that affect the oral cavity. Oral health refers to much more than teeth.
Oral disease can range from mild gingivitis to life-threatening oral cancer with many diseases in between. Oral disease research is showing a relationship between oral disease and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and pre-term, low birth weight infants.
The most common forms of oral diseases are gum diseases (gingivitis or periodontitis) and dental caries (cavities). Other oral conditions include infections caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi; congenital defects such as cleft lip and palate; and manifestations of systemic diseases.
Sadly, even when there is good oral health care available, most people do not always consider oral disease an important problem. Many people are unaware that a “simple” problem in the mouth can lead to advanced, life-threatening infections that in rare instances can cause death. The article For Want of a Dentist describes the death, from complications of a tooth abscess, of Deamonte Driver.6
Some of the terms that a person new to oral health care needs to know include:
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