It’s easy to take oral health for granted, given the easy availability of oral care products and professionals in so much of the world. Still, the world would be a very different place if oral care wasn’t readily available.
Smiles Would Be Less Toothy and a Lot More Painful
Chewing would be a young person’s game, since primary teeth would erupt, be infected with cavities, fall out, only to be replaced by permanent teeth that might already have cavities or would have them soon. Few people would keep their teeth into adulthood. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that, even in our current world with oral care available in many parts of the world, 30% of people age 65-74 have no natural teeth.
Although modern toothbrushes are, well, modern, the idea of toothbrushes is hardly new. According, to the Library of Congress, toothbrushes in very early forms have existed since around 3000 BC. Toothpaste appears in Ancient Egypt, India, and China even earlier, about 5000 BC. It turns out, people recognized the value of cleaning teeth very early on. Of course, the powdered charcoal, burnt eggshells, or pulverized ox hooves and oyster shells were not as pleasant as a modern tooth gel with fluoride and nano hydroxyapatite. Even so, oral care has long been valued, and for good reasons.
Food Would Be a Lot Less Interesting
The next time you bite into a crisp, juicy apple, thank good oral health. Without oral health, those teeth that allow you to take a big bite could be gone.
Food without teeth would need to be largely minced, mashed, and /or boiled soft. Texture would be reserved for the young, as chewing would be a young person’s game while they still had teeth.
Life Expectancy Would Be a Lot Shorter
Oral health isn’t just about pretty smiles and better eating. The same bacteria that contribute to cavities contribute to heart disease. Without any care for oral health, heart disease would dramatically shorten the average life expectancy.
Oral care also contributes to healthy pregnancies. Mothers with gum disease who receive no care have much higher preterm birth rates and low birthweight babies. Pregnant women with gum disease are much more likely to suffer from preeclampsia, a life threatening pregnancy complication. Unfavorable conditions for healthy pregnancies would also lower the average life expectancy.
Cancer Would Do A Lot of Damage
Oral cancer, if unchecked, would lead to a lot of pain and loss. Tobacco use, alcohol misuse, and poor nutrition would continue to cause tumors of the head, neck, and throat, but without proper oral care, they would be allowed to grow unchecked.
By the time cancers were detected, all early, conservative treatments would likely be off the table. Radical, face altering surgeries to remove cancerous growths would likely be the norm rather than an unfortunate last resort.
The World Would Smell Less Pleasant
Let’s face it, halitosis (bad breath) may not be as serious as decreased life expectancy and increased cancer rates, but it sure would make daily interactions with other people less enjoyable.
Without oral health care and with a lot more tooth decay left untreated, there would be widespread halitosis, making every conversation more stinky, every large group gathering a little more fragrant, every speech a little ripe. A permanent case of worldwide morning breath all day long make make socializing a lot less enjoyable.
Luckily, Oral Health is Real
Regular visits with the dentist may not make your favorites list, but maybe they should when you consider the alternative. Regular tooth and gum care at home partnered with regular checkups with your oral health professional can spare you the pain and unpleasantness of a world without oral health.
The World Health Organization currently is working to expand the reach of oral health care programs to more of the world’s citizens so we can all benefit from the care many of us may take for granted in the developed world.