Commentary Health and Disease

Importance of Oral Health

This article gives an introduction to the importance of oral health
for a better overall body health and how countries all over the world are attempting to better the oral health of the general population.

As the World Health Organization states in their definition, ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ Oral health is determined by a multitude of factors and poor oral health affects the overall health of a person more than people believe. The main aspects of preventing oral diseases within the community involve the communication of the importance of diet, oral hygiene and regular check-ups.

Oral health can be maintained to a high standard with a suitable balanced diet. The more obvious trigger to decreased oral health is the consumption of high amounts of sugar. The sugars interact with plaque bacteria to produce acid and enamel degradation occurs. Even though this process is slow and the saliva’s minerals can reverse some damage to an extent, a lack of proper oral hygiene will exacerbate this demineralisation. Repeated degradation can lead to a cavity being formed and leaving it untreated, it can spread to lower layers of the teeth, causing pain. If bacteria invade the dental pulp, tooth abscesses can form, causing more pain. These infections are easily treatable but further delayed treatment can lead to further complications where infections spread to the head and neck and in extreme cases other parts of the body too. As well as a fall in physical health, a person experiencing chronic pain would be mentally affected and make them feel a lot worse. In addition, when only taking into account oral health, eating foods with sugar fewer times during the day is much better than many times during the day as a regular intake of sugar results in acid being present in the mouth for a longer period.

Poor nutrition also leads to multiple nutritional deficiencies which can cause many issues within the oral cavity. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to impaired tooth formation and an enamel defect called enamel hypoplasia can occur, which is characterised by thin or absent enamel. This also affects the skin within the mouth. A vitamin B deficiency can be caused by restricted diets such as veganism and it can lead to sores and ulcers within the mouth, swelling of the tongue and inflamed gums. Similar symptoms are experienced with a Vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency affects the calcification and strength of teeth and bone. Vitamin D deficiency also makes it harder for your immune system to fend off infections within the mouth so periodontal disease occurring may be more likely. With these nutritional deficiencies and others occurring, pain and discomfort experienced by a person will reduce their intake of nutrition further as they find eating more of a challenge which would aggravate these conditions within the mouth.

In an attempt to improve the oral health of the community, since 1964 the UK has introduced water fluoridation schemes and since 2013 the government has urged local councils to introduce water fluoridation schemes further. In 2021 a bill was created to give the Secretary of State power to give further control of water fluoridation so it can be directly introduced, varied or terminated in different locations. Fluoride is a mineral in bones and teeth and within the oral cavity, it strengthens enamel to prevent cavities. These water fluoridation schemes have been put in place, not just in the UK but all over the world, to prevent dental caries within the whole population. In the UK, children’s tooth extractions cost hospitals approximately £50 million each year and most of these are preventable tooth decay. Research has shown that within the UK, by including drinking water with fluoridated water of at least 0.7mg/l, the number of people experiencing decay would fall by up to 28% in the most deprived areas. In addition, the number of extractions can be reduced by up to 68%. These systems being put in place improve oral health of communities immensely, especially in areas of socio-economic deprivation.  In cases of high intake of fluoride, skeletal fluorosis can occur, where symptoms of joint pain and stiffness can occur but only with long term intake of a large amount of fluoride. Dental fluorosis happens when too much fluoride is taken whilst teeth are forming under the gum and this can result in white spots on the teeth. Other than these white spots, no other harm occurs.

Overall, oral health is a vital aspect of being “healthy” as a person. With oral disease not only causing harm within the mouth but the reduced confidence of a person who has any form of an oral disease affects their mental state. This is why dentistry looks into helping a patient’s mental health too as treatments give patients self-assurance on how they appear to others.

Arya Bhatt, Youth Medical Journal 2022


Cafasso, J. (2019). What Is Fluoride, and Is It Safe? [online] Healthline. Available at:

GOV.UK. (2021). Health and Care Bill: water fluoridation. [online] Available at:

Middleton, A. (2020). How Poor Nutrition Affects Your Teeth l London Hygienist. [online] londonhygienist. Available at:

Scardina, G.A. and Messina, P. (2012). Good Oral Health and Diet. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, [online] 2012. Available at:

Tan, V. (2017). How Sugar Causes Cavities and Destroys Your Teeth. [online] Healthline. Available at:


By Arya Bhatt

Arya Bhatt is a student in London, UK.

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