On May 25, 2000 the Health and Human Services Department issued its first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America. The publication of this report marks a milestone in the history of oral health. The report looks at the meaning of oral health, and explains why it is essential to the general health and well-being of all Americans, and why all Americans can achieve it.
The past fifty years has seen “extraordinary advances” in oral health. “We can be proud of the strides we have made in improving the health of the American people,” says the Surgeon General. Here are some highlights of the report:
- Oral diseases affect health and well-being throughout life. The burden of oral problems is extensive: it includes the common dental diseases that can occur at any stage of life, as well as birth defects in infancy, and chronic facial pain and cancers seen in later years. These conditions can undermine self-image and self-esteem, and lead to chronic stress and depression as well as incur great financial cost. They can also interfere with vital functions such as breathing, eating, swallowing, and speaking.
- Disease prevention is available to everyone. Safe and effective disease prevention measures exist to improve oral health and prevent disease. Daily oral hygiene, fluoridation, dental sealants, and regular examinations for dental and oral problems are central to a healthy mouth and a healthy body.
- General health risk factors also affect oral health. Lifestyle behaviors such as tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, and poor dietary choices increase the risk of oral cancers, periodontal disease, and cavities.
- The mouth is the gateway to the body. The mouth is a readily accessible and visible part of the body, and provides health care providers and individuals with an invaluable window to their general health status. “You cannot be healthy without oral health.” We must recognize that oral and general health are inseparable. The connection between periodontal disease and diabetes, stroke, premature births, and cardiovascular disease has been demonstrated, although further study is needed.
For the complete Surgeon General’s Report, visit the web site of the National Institute of Dental and Cranial Research at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/oralhealth/default.htm.
Please make sure you see us regularly so we can ensure you have not only excellent dental health, but with it, a good start towards overall health excellence.