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Teeth Are Always in Style: But Increasingly, Not for All

“Teeth are always in style,” Dr. Seuss says. If healthy, I would add. And increasingly, not for all.

Oral health is a critical component of general health. Declines in oral health are associated with chronic systemic conditions such as cancer (Michaud et al. 2008; Shakeri et al. 2013), preterm births (Hwang et al. 2012), obesity (Torres et al. 2013), and stroke (Sim et al. 2008), as well as with functional impairments in speech and eating that affect quality of life and with adverse social outcomes such as unemployment. The extreme manifestation of persistently poor oral health is edentulism or complete loss of teeth, a condition that was very prevalent in centuries past. Having no teeth among other things reduces the person's ability to eat healthy, affects social perception of the individual, interferes with the patient's ability to gain employment, and more (Akpata et al. 2011; Offenbacher et al. 2012; Hall, Chapman, and Kurth 2013). Oral disease may also endanger one's life. Today oral and pharyngeal cancer affects more non-Hispanic white women than cervical cancer in the United States (Zavras et al. 2013).

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