What is oral and dental health?

Oral health refers to the health of the teeth, gums and the entire oral-facial system that allows us to smile, talk and chew. Some of the most common diseases affecting our oral health include tooth decay (tooth decay), gum disease (periodontal) and oral cancer. Dental and oral health is an essential part of your overall health and well-being. Poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, and has also been linked to heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Oral health is the health of the mouth, including the teeth, gums, throat, and bones that surround the mouth. Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping your mouth clean and disease-free. It involves brushing and flossing your teeth, as well as visiting your dentist regularly for dental x-rays, exams, and cleanings. Good oral health is especially important for groups such as children, pregnant women and older adults.

The demand for oral health care is beyond the capacity of health systems in most low- and middle-income countries, and many people in some high-income countries cannot afford adequate care. This seal, awarded by the American Dental Association, means that the product has been rigorously tested and approved by scientists in fields such as microbiology, toxicology, pharmacology and chemistry. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), nearly 50,000 Americans will receive a diagnosis of oral cancer this year. About 100 million Americans don't see a dentist every year, even though regular dental exams and good oral hygiene can prevent most dental diseases.

Most Americans today enjoy excellent oral health and maintain their natural teeth throughout their lives; however, tooth decay remains the most prevalent chronic illness of childhood. Good oral health practices and regular visits to dental health professionals will help you enjoy the benefits of a bright smile and a pain-free mouth. The significant improvement in oral health for Americans over the past 50 years is a public health success story. Poor oral health causes millions of people to suffer devastating pain and increases the out-of-pocket financial burden on society.

If oral cancer is suspected, the dentist may also order imaging tests to see if the cancer has spread. However, oral diseases, from tooth decay to oral cancer, cause significant pain and disability for many Americans. When buying oral health products, the best general rule of thumb is to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Prevent and control oral and craniofacial diseases, conditions, and injuries, and improve access to preventive services and dental care.

Because of hormonal changes at various stages in their lives, women are at risk for several oral health problems. This publication, the first in a series of oral health briefing notes, focuses on the prevention and treatment of dental caries (cavities) without mercury.