Separating Oral Health From The Rest Of The Body
Separating Oral Health From The Rest Of The Body
“It’s the sucking reflex combined with another primitive response, the rooting reflex, that allows infants to breastfeed. The rooting reflex works by turning the infant’s head to face anything that strokes its mouth or cheek. As soon as something grazes the newborn’s lips, the sucking reflex is activated. While the tongue then does a lot of the work, the lips are vital to maintain a tight seal so that the infant can swallow.”
– BBC: Why Do We Have Lips?
Oral activities, therefore, at the very beginning of our lives play a vital part in our survival. We teethe later and a series of teeth come through to enable us to feed on ever more chewy consumables. We taste and smell through the interconnectedness of our mouths, nose, and throat. Taste and texture are important elements within the whole eating and drinking paradigm. Babies and infants first encounter the world orally, you can watch them put everything into their mouth to work out what is what. Separating oral health from the rest of the body is no easy thing if you view it all holistically.
Everything is connected when it comes to our health and wellbeing.
What Exactly Is Oral Health?
“Oral health is the state of the mouth, teeth and orofacial structures that enables individuals to perform essential functions such as eating, breathing and speaking, and encompasses psychosocial dimensions such as self-confidence, well-being and the ability to socialise and work without pain, discomfort and embarrassment. Oral health varies over the life course from early life to old age, is integral to general health and supports individuals in participating in society and achieving their potential.”
– Who International
I would go so far as to say that you cannot separate oral health from the rest of the body and general health. Indeed, our oral health impacts profoundly upon the health and wellbeing of every individual. The sensitivity of our lips and mouths is a sure indicator of the importance of this region of the body, especially as a messenger in terms of our state of health. Every dentist worth his or her salt will tell you that you neglect your oral health at the peril of your life. This is no melodramatic cry of wolf warning but a very real statement of fact. The impact of problems with teeth and gums on the overall health of human beings is disproportionate to things like size and allocation of resources but very real just the same.
“The most common oral diseases affect the teeth (tooth decay, called ‘caries’) and gums (periodontal disease). Oral disease can destroy the tissues in the mouth, leading to lasting physical and psychological disability (NACDH 2012). Tooth loss can reduce the functionality of the mouth, making chewing and swallowing more challenging, which in turn can compromise nutrition. Poor nutrition can impair general health and exacerbate existing health conditions (NACDH 2012). Poor oral health is also associated with a number of chronic diseases, including stroke and cardiovascular disease.”
Think about things like eating and drinking and how important these essential activities are to your life. On a sensual level try to imagine a life without taste, texture, smell, and satiation. Remember the act of kissing and the role your mouth plays in love making. These are special human activities, which make us who we are. The sensual life cannot be overestimated in its vital importance to our lives in terms of meaning. Oral health is essential to all of these very human activities. Your psychological health is very much linked to the wellbeing of your oral health.
“Studies have shown relationships between psychological distress and dental health among adults, including the association of depression and anxiety with lower tooth brushing frequency, and the relationship that stress and depressive symptoms have with poor oral health.” – Pohjola, V., Nurkkala, M. & Virtanen, J.I. Psychological distress, oral health behaviour and related factors among adolescents: Finnish School Health Promotion Study. BMC Oral Health 21, 6 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12903-020-01357-3
Oral Health Vulnerabilities
During those times when we experience problems with our teeth and gums. It may be tooth ache from cavities or cracks. Something has gone wrong with our ability to process food in our oral cavity. Exposed nerve endings within the pulp of the tooth can cause extreme pain in these very sensitive regions. Inflammation flares up and infection is never very far away. This poisons our system to some extent and our body goes into reaction to fight off what it can. Suddenly, we are very aware of our inability to separate oral health from the rest of the body. Tooth ache can take our consciousness into an altered state. The pain can raddle the mind, as if one is affected by strong drugs. Our oral health is so closely tied up with who we are and how we sense things around us. It is why many of us are so afraid of the dentist. The intimate region of our mouth is such a vulnerable location for sharp pain. We can hardly bear the pain of tooth ache without medications designed to alleviate pain.
Tooth Ache Hits Us Hard
It is true that modern human beings largely live their lives inside their heads. By this I mean that we are so wrapped up in our thoughts and mental processes that the raw nature of the sensual world is kept at bay by the many labour saving devices and environmentally conditioned artificial settings we inhabit. This is why the unexpurgated pain of tooth ache is so shocking when it comes upon us. It is hard to stay cosseted inside your thoughts when severe pain troubles you from within your oral cavity. We are a soft generation when compared to our ancestors who survived without air conditioned lives, motorised vehicles, and richly furnished homes. We reach for pain killers at the drop of a hat and the medical establishment tells us there is a pill for every ill. Tooth ache is a primal business and hits us hard in our softest spot.
Global Oral Health Aspirations
Dentists in the 21C recognise how sensitive we have become. Sensitivity is the name of the game for dental clinics, as they manage human pain and anxieties around dental procedures. Dentists have long understood how important oral health is to the general health of human beings. The greater our levels of oral health are globally, the healthier we will all be across the board. It is a mission worth embarking upon for all dentists everywhere and many are serving their communities wherever possible to achieve this stated aim.
Note: All content and media on the Bacchus Marsh Dental House website and social media channels are created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.
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