The way to the stomach is through the oral system where food is masticated and predigested initially before passing into the GI tract for further processing. The taste buds present on the toungue helps to decide whether the food is palatable or desirable and this taste perception influences to some extent the quantity of any prepared food consumed. The influence of brain in hunger sensation is also a factor that regulates food consumption. The role of teeth is well defined and universally it is considered as a tool to reduce the particle size of food that enters the body. But recently it has been felt that the extent of deterioration of the gums and teeth probably reflects the health of the heart and other organs. Strong gums and teeth make the heart less prone to diseases that afflict a sizable population. Poor oral health can be a clear indication of possible afflictions like diabetes, kidney diseases, preterm labor, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease and some forms of cancer.
Bad breath, often referred to as halitosis, is attributed to bad dental hygiene. The practice of cleaning the teeth as a first chore of the day is ingrained in the customs and traditions of all populations and in India there are many ways of doing this like use of neem stalks and similar medicinal plant parts, ayurvedic formulations in powder form, carbonized rice husk, modern day cleaning powders, tooth brushes and pastes etc. According to dentists brushing after each meal is ideal but at least twice a day brushing is absolutely necessary to avoid dental decay. Gargling of mouth after meals also is helpful in loosening and evicting food residues from the oral cavity. Mild brushing of tongue is also recommended to remove microscopic particles of food trapped on the rough surface of the tongue. Many traditional foods and food consumption habits are known to protect the oral system from priodontal diseases and a detailed assessment may throw up clues as to how food itself can be an effective deterent against human ailments.
Gum diseases like gingivitis and more serious periodontal problems could be a part of an early warning system nature has endowed on mankind which need to be taken seriously. Some relationship between gum infection and atherosclerosis is suspected for long and it is now known that more severe one's gum disease, narrower will be the arteries due to build up of plaque. In some cases treatment of oral diseases with intense therapy resulted in improved endothelial function and better performance of the linings of the blood vessels.
Infection and inflammation of gums affect the tissues supporting the teeth and the bacteria and toxins formed due to this get circulated through out the body destroying the bone and affecting various organs. Preterm births are also linked to poor oral health conditions though the link is not scientifically explained. some scientists are emphatic in their view regarding a positive linkage between poorly maintained oral system and diseases like cancers of lung, kidney, pancreas and blood but hard evidence is still lacking to confirm them. Same is true regarding link between gum infection and disease affecting kidney and Alzheimer's disease. The body- mouth connection is much more evident in the case of diabetes and it has been established unequivocally that uncontrolled gum disease make it difficult for the affected people to have any meaningful control of blood sugar. of course reverse is also true with uncontrolled diabetics experiencing severe periodontal problems. The embirical observations such as the above cannot rubbished and more scientific studies are necessary before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
Development of modern medical system is heavily biased in favor of ever narrowing specialization with each super specialist concerned only with his own field of specialization ignoring tell tale signs of other symptoms of other diseases. Unless human body is considered holistically, the travails of the patients groping for answers to his health problems are bound to be aggravated. In the context of the above random observations, dentists have increased responsibility cast on them to be more critical while diagnozing oral health disorders, promptly referring suspected cases to specialists. In the interest of mankind in general, physicians of all background must collaborate and interact amongst themselves to extend most effective treatment to the patients to prevent avoidable misery and preventable mortality.