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Oral Health: Mouth, Throat and Neck Medical Conditions

Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2018/10/11

Synopsis: Mouth and throat diseases range from cavities to cancer cause pain and disability for millions of Americans each year.

Main Document

Mouth and throat diseases, which range from cavities to cancer, cause pain and disability for millions of Americans each year, yet almost all oral diseases are largely preventable.

Oral health:

Oral health is multifaceted and includes the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow, and convey a range of emotions through facial expressions with confidence and without pain, discomfort, and disease of the craniofacial complex.

Oral Hygiene:

The practice of keeping the mouth and teeth clean to prevent dental problems, most commonly, dental cavities, gingivitis, periodontal(gum) diseases and bad breath. There are also oral pathologic conditions in which good oral hygiene is required for healing and regeneration of the oral tissues. These conditions include gingivitis, periodontitis, and dental trauma, such as subluxation, oral cysts, and following wisdom tooth extraction.

Dental x-ray of teeth - Photo by Umanoide on Unsplash.
Dental x-ray of teeth - Photo by Umanoide on Unsplash.

Good oral health does not just mean you have pretty teeth. Your whole mouth needs care to be in good health. The word "oral" refers to the mouth, which includes your teeth, gums, jawbone, and supporting tissues. Your oral health is connected to many other health conditions beyond your mouth. Sometimes the first sign of a disease shows up in your mouth. In other cases, infections in your mouth, such as gum disease, can cause problems in other areas of your body.

When your gums are healthy, bacteria in your mouth usually don't enter your bloodstream. However, gum disease may provide bacteria a port of entry into your bloodstream. Sometimes invasive dental treatments also can allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Medications or treatments that reduce saliva flow or disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your mouth also may lead to oral changes, making it easier for bacteria to enter your bloodstream.

Oral health can also affect the health of your body.

It is easy to take your oral health for granted. But good oral health is key to your overall health. Many diseases, such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, and some eating disorders, can cause oral health problems. For instance, people with diabetes can develop tooth and gum problems if their blood sugar stays high. Regular dental exams help you maintain good oral health and avoid related health problems.

Types of Oral Health Conditions

Thrush (Oral candidiasis)

These fungal infections appear as red or white lesions, flat or slightly raised, in the mouth or throat. They can be caused by overgrowth of the fungus Candida. This fungus lives naturally in your mouth.

Canker Sores

These sores are small ulcers inside the mouth. They have a white or gray base and a red border. Women are more likely than men to have canker sores that recur.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

This problem happens when you don't have enough saliva in your mouth.

Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Bad-smelling breath can be caused by a number of different things.

Oral Cancer

This cancer can affect any part of the mouth.

If you smoke or chew tobacco, you are at higher risk.

Alcohol use along with smoking raises your risk even more - yet over 25% of oral cancer affects non-smokers.


Diabetes increases your risk of gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, dry mouth and a variety of oral infections.


Gum disease has been linked to premature birth. This is why it's vital to maintain excellent oral health before you get pregnant and during your pregnancy.

Cardiovascular Disease

Research shows that several types of cardiovascular disease may be linked to oral health. These include heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke.


The first stages of bone loss may show up in your teeth.

Systemic loss of bone density in osteoporosis, including bone in the jaw, may create a condition where the bone supporting your teeth is increasingly susceptible to infectious destruction.

Other Oral Health Conditions

Many other conditions may make their presence known in your mouth before you know anything's wrong.

These may include Sjogren's syndrome, certain cancers, eating disorders, syphilis, gonorrhea and substance abuse. Cold sores and canker sores are two other common forms of oral health conditions.

It's important to take care of your mouth and teeth starting in childhood. If you don't, you could have problems with your teeth and gums, like cavities or even tooth loss.

How to Keep Your Mouth and Teeth Healthy

  • Limit sugary snacks.
  • Don't smoke or chew tobacco.
  • See your dentist or oral health professional regularly.
  • Brush your teeth every day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between your teeth every day with floss or another type of between-the-teeth cleaner.

Between dental visits, it is important to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and see a dental professional if they do not improve after 2 to 3 weeks:

  • A sore, or soreness or irritation that doesn't go away
  • Lumps, thickening tissues, rough spots, crusty or eroded areas
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
  • Red or white patches, or pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips

Chewing gum assists oral irrigation between and around the teeth, cleaning and removing particles, but for teeth in poor condition it may damage or remove loose fillings as well. Chewing sugar free chewing gum that contains xylitol may be good for teeth. Dental chewing gums claim to improve dental health. Sugar-free chewing gum stimulates saliva production, and helps to clean the surface of the teeth.

Oral Health Statistics


  • Globally, about 30% of people aged 65-74 have no natural teeth.
  • Worldwide, 60-90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities.
  • Oral disease in children and adults is higher among poor and disadvantaged population groups.
  • Dental cavities can be prevented by maintaining a constant low level of fluoride in the oral cavity.
  • Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 15-20% of middle-aged (35-44 years) adults.
  • Risk factors for oral diseases include an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful alcohol use and poor oral hygiene, and social determinants.


  • Percent of children ages 6-19 years with untreated dental caries: 15.6% (2007-2010)
  • Percent of adults ages 20-64 years with untreated dental caries: 23.7% (2005-2008)
  • Percent of children ages 2-17 with a dental visit in the past year: 82.3% (2012)
  • Percent of adults ages 18-64 with a dental visit in the past year: 61.6% (2012)
  • Percent of adults ages 65 and over with a dental visit in the past year: 61.8% (2012)



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