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The Fright of Oral Diseases

Updated: Apr 21

Humera Rohail, Kathleen Shang, Sokuntheary Prak

Project Smile Global

April 13, 2024

The Fright of Oral Diseases

As we begin Oral Health Month, the need for spreading awareness on oral diseases becomes necessary. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), oral diseases affect people throughout their lifetime, causing pain, discomfort, dental disfigurement, and in some cases even death (“Oral Health”). The WHO also found that approximately 3.5 billion people suffer from some type of oral disease (“Oral Health”). It is said that the amount of individuals who suffer from oral diseases is increasing globally with the growth of urban areas and changes in living conditions (“Oral Health”). Understanding and spreading awareness about the different types of oral diseases is vital in decreasing the number of people suffering from oral diseases in the future. With this, we need to also understand the different ways we can prevent these diseases.

One of the most common oral diseases among individuals is dental caries, or cavities (“Oral Health”). Dr. Caitlin Rosemann, of the Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health, defines cavities as holes, or areas of tooth decay, that form in your teeth surfaces. She states that cavities can be small or big and can form in many places, but often they form on top of your teeth and tend to cause sensitivity, pain, infections, and tooth loss if the cavities are not fixed. Cavities form when we don’t brush and floss our teeth and the bacteria in our mouths start to feed off of that food and build up causing plaque formation. According to Mayo Clinic Staff, the ways to treat cavities are fluoride treatments, fillings, crowns, root canals, and tooth extractions. Fluoride treatments are used when the cavity formation is in its early stages (Mayo Clinic Staff). Fillings are the main treatment option, the dentist uses a tooth-colored composite resin or resin and uses it to fill in the cavity to stop it from spreading (Mayo Clinic Staff). When you have a lot of decay or weakened teeth, then a crown is inserted to replace your tooth’s entire natural crown (Mayo Clinic Staff). When the decay is far into the root of your tooth, then a root canal is done, where the diseased tooth pulp is removed and replaced with a filling (Mayo Clinic Staff). If the tooth is severely damaged and can’t be restored, then a tooth extraction is necessary to prevent any further damage (Mayo Clinic Staff). Dr. Rosemann says to prevent even getting a cavity it is important to drink water with fluoride, brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, stay away from sugary foods and drinks, limit snacks between meals, floss regularly, and go to the dentist regularly. Having good dental hygiene and eating habits decrease an individual's risk of getting a cavity and allow a person to live a healthy oral life. 

Another prevalent oral disease is edentulism. This is the condition where a person loses their natural teeth due to injuries, dental caries, or other conditions (“Tooth Loss”). Out of the 16.5 million years of people losing healthy lives and living with a disability in 2013, edentulism accounted for one-third of it (Tyrovolas 1). This condition is decreasing in high-income countries but is doing the opposite in lower class countries, which are linked to people not receiving enough support or education to prevent caries (“Tooth Loss”). In fact, adults who have less than a high school education, considered to be in poverty, or are current smokers are three times as likely to lose all their teeth (“Tooth Loss”). Although edentulism most frequently occurs with the elderly due to gum recession, children and adults may be affected as well. Injury, neglect, poor diet, gingivitis, and periodontitis are all leading causes of edentulism (“Causes and Consequences of Tooth Loss”). Some people also have a fear of going to the dentist or feel embarrassed to get proper help because they are scared of being judged negatively, and have bad teeth as a result; losing teeth can have devastating consequences; not only does speaking and eating become extremely difficult, but self-confidence lowers drastically as well (“Causes and Consequences of Tooth Loss”). Options include dentures, which are removable prosthetic devices as replacement for teeth, dental implants, which are artificial tooth roots,or dental bridges, which are false teeth between porcelain crowns (“Causes and Consequences of Tooth Loss”). However, the easiest and cheapest method is to simply prevent edentulism from happening in the first place: create prevention plans with dentists, avoid smoking, and maintain brushing and flossing teeth.

Oral cancer stands as a prominent concern among oral health conditions today. This oral disease is a type of cancer of the mouth, affecting an estimated 300,000 people yearly  (“Oral Health”). According to the WHO, oral cancer is commonly found in men and older people, due to socio-economic circumstances. People with weakened immune systems, human papillomavirus, and heavy alcohol use are more susceptible to oral cancer  (“Oral Health”). In broader context, cancer is developed by mutations in DNA, resulting in the uncontrollable overgrowth and division of cells (“What Is Cancer?”). Consequently, these cells spread into surrounding tissues and are at risk to form a tumor (“What Is Cancer?”). Oral cancer begins as squamous cells in the mouth, and can progress to the neck and head (“Mouth Cancer - Symptoms and Causes”). Symptoms and signs generally associated with oral cancer include; difficulty swallowing, mouth pain, white patch or lump on the inside of your mouth, and mouth sores (“Mouth Cancer - Symptoms and Causes”). This disease is curable if detected at an early stage, however if it’s classified as advanced mouth cancer, it is much more difficult to treat and nearly impossible to cure (“Oral Cancer.”). Treatment often depends on the stage, which may include; chemotherapy, radiation therapy, laryngectomy, neck dissection, or glossectomy (Oral Cancer: Overview”). Although there are no direct preventions, people can reduce their risk of oral cancer by taking the following measures: stopping the consumption of tobacco, reducing alcohol intake, and avoiding sun exposure to the lips (“Mouth Cancer - Symptoms and Causes”). Tobacco may expose your cells to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals, alcohol can irritate your mouth and result in the development of cancer, and the sun makes your lips susceptible to the sun’s radiation (“Oral Cancer”). In spite of this, seeing a dentist once a month for check-ups constitutes an effective means of preventing oral cancer (“Oral Cancer: Overview”).

With living conditions constantly changing and an increase in sugary foods, oral diseases are rising, with currently about 2 billion adults suffering from dental caries (“Oral Health”). With so much of the population suffering from these diseases and not even having the services to prevent them, it is clear that something needs to be done (Tyrovolas 1). The World Health Committee is currently working on their plan for universal health coverage for everyone by 2030, but until then, the numbers could keep increasing (“Oral Health”). For those people who do indeed have resources, it is in their best interest to brush their teeth daily with toothpaste and try to maintain their oral health. 

Work Cited

“Causes and Consequences of Tooth Loss.” Consumer Guide to Dentistry, Ceatus Media

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Cavities and Tooth Decay.” Mayo Clinic, 30 Nov. 2023, 20352898.

“Mouth Cancer - Symptoms and Causes” Mayo Clinic, 26 Oct. 2022, 20350997.

“Oral Cancer.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research,

Oral Cancer: Overview.”University of Rochester Medical Center. contenttypeid=35&contentid=FAQOralCancer.

“Oral Health.” World Health Organization, 14 March, 2023,

Rosemann, Caitlin. “Cavities: What are They and How Do We Prevent Them?” Mouth Healthy, Accessed 3 Apr. 2024.

“Tooth Loss.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 Jan. 2021,

Tyrovolas, Stefanos, et al. “Population Prevalence of Edentulism and Its Association with Depression and Self-Rated Health.” Scientific Reports, vol. 6, 17 Nov. 2016, pp. 1-9,

“What Is Cancer?” National Cancer Institute, 11 Oct. 2021,

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