Importance of Oral Health

Importance of oral health and hygiene is indisputable. Oral cavity is the most important portal of entry into the human body
and any disease or dysfunction afflicting the oro-dental apparatus is bound to have detrimental effects on the general health of the individual in various ways, apart from creating functional and esthetic problems in the oro-facial region.

Oral health means more than just an attractive smile. Poor oral health and untreated oral diseases and conditions can have a significant impact on quality of life. And in many cases, the condition of the mouth mirrors the condition of the body as a whole. Recent reports indicate a relationship between periodontal (gum) disease and stroke, heart disease, and pre-term low-birth-weight babies. Likewise, more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations, meaning your dentist may be the first health care provider to diagnose a health problem.


Our mouth is exactly like an office where 32 people work. 16 of them work in the upper floor and the other 16 in the lower floor. The upper and lower front teeth form the reception committee and the back teeth are the back-office workers. The two batches of 16 people situated in the two floors of the upper and lower jaw have two managers ... the two jaw joints. There are several office assistants who help in smooth co-ordination of the office activities... they are the muscles of mastication (which aid in chewing) and the muscles of facial expression.

For efficient working of this office all members should be seated in their right places and should also work in unison. Any imbalance in this wonderful mechanism will cause strain on the managers - the joints and also their assistants, the muscles... causing pain and other problems. 

Just as is the case in any office, all problematic workers should be either disciplined to ensure they discharge their duties properly, or, thrown out (ie extracted). If such a disciplinary action is not taken,  the sincere workers in the office will be affected and the job being done turns out to be improper. In situations where problem creators are retained, just as is the case in most offices, the trouble makers survive in the office after kicking out the sincere, hard working colleagues. The functioning of the office turns out to be chaotic and pathetic and in course of time becomes totally inefficient. If an efficient member of the office has been removed, it is important that a suitable replacement is done to ensure the other members are not overloaded with work, thereby facilitating smooth functioning of the office. 

There are 4 goons in the office... the wisdom teeth. They are unpredictable. If they are sleeping (lying buried deep in bone without the possibility of erupting), they need not be woken up. But if they are impinging on the adjacent teeth (the second molars), they will most certainly start creating problems and therefore should be removed. Once they are removed, they are not usually replaced as they do not play a significant role in the chewing mechanism.

My treatment philosophy has always been driven by this concept about the oro- dento-facial structures.

"Every tooth in a man's head is more valuable than a diamond." So wrote Cervantes in the early 17th century. The great Spanish novelist was not being quixotic. In his day, teeth were not easily replaced. But modern visitors to dentists' chairs in search of a gleaming grin find the artificial variety just about as dear as a diamond.

In dental treatment, we can adopt two strategies... one is the "fire-fighting strategy" and second is the "fire prevention strategy". In the case of the former, dental problems are addressed only when they have started troubling the individual(s) in the form of pain, discomfort, food impaction etc. The damage done in this situation will be extensive and often requires elaborate treatment procedures to restore the conditions to normalcy. In the case of the latter, all developing problems are identified and treated well in advance. This helps eliminate pain and discomfort totally, minimizes damage as well as reduces treatment expenses in the long run. Periodic oral examination aids in prevention of oro-dental diseases.
Dental patients generally do not report even for a preliminary dental examination till they experience some pain or discomfort. The three most important factors which prevent dental patients from consulting doctors periodically are (1) fear of pain, (2)treatment costs & (3) lengthy treatment procedures spread over multiple sittings. In all the three situations, the patients are the losers. I would prefer to call them to be "penny wise and pound foolish". By not getting preventive treatment done at the right point of time, they end up suffering more pain, undergoing more complex procedures and spending more money to get the messed up situation in which they have landed, cleared.

The dental patient is often at crossroads...

                                          - Dr. Prasanth Pillai, MDS (OMFS), FICD
                                          Dental, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon, Kochi


Your suggestions / comments to improve on this site and its contents are welcome.
What problems can poor oral health cause?
According to the recently released Surgeon General's report on oral health in America, a large percentage of the population suffers from a reduced quality of life due to oral and facial pain. This pain is largely due to infections of the gums that support the teeth and can lead to tooth loss. More than 75 percent of the population is affected by some type of periodontal disease or gingivitis.
Recent reports show that infections in the mouth can affect major organs. One example is bacterial endocarditis, a condition in which the lining of the heart and heart valves become inflamed. Poor mouth care also can contribute to oral cancer, which now takes more lives annually than cervical or skin cancer.
In addition, poor oral health affects the digestive process, which begins with physical and chemical activities in the mouth. Problems here can lead to intestinal failure, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other problems.

What symptoms from other diseases show up in the mouth?
Mouth tissues reflect symptoms of other problems. In addition, many diseases can be diagnosed in their early stages through an oral examination. These diseases may be characterized by swollen gums, mouth ulcers, dry mouth and/or excessive gum problems. Some of these diseases include diabetes, leukemia, cancer, heart disease and kidney disease.

What can I do?
Seeing a dentist every six months can help identify diseases in their earliest stages. It also is important to provide your dentist with a complete medical/dental history and to inform him or her of any recent problems, even if they seem unrelated to your mouth.

What can my dentist do?
A regular exam allows your dentist to keep your mouth in tip-top shape and watch for developments that may point to problems elsewhere in your body. A dental exam also picks up on poor nutrition and hygiene, growth and development problems and improper jaw alignment. According to a recent survey, 90 percent of dentists said they counsel patients on home care for special oral health care needs resulting from chemotherapy or head and neck radiation therapy. Eighty-seven percent of dentists surveyed responded that they counsel patients on tobacco use, more than half provide direct counseling to patients. Thirty-eight percent of respondents also provide literature on the dangers of tobacco and information on tobacco cessation programs to patients, 17 percent refer patients to their primary care physician, and 14 percent directly refer patients to cessation services.