Oral health is an essential component of general health as poor oral hygiene affects growth, development and learning for children, communication, nutrition, self-esteem and various systemic conditions. Because of its effects on daily living, oral health is considered a determinant of quality of life. The impact of environmental change on the lives of natives of a particular geographical region influences the overall health status of an individual. Environmental pollution is now recognised as a global threat and the actions of mankind are largely accountable for this.
Without access to clean water, people living in developing and underdeveloped countries may suffer from several oral diseases like dental caries, fluorosis which is influenced by the food and quality of the water in a specific topographic region. Chemicals in water can be both naturally occurring or introduced by human interference and can have a huge impact on teeth and oral mucosa.
Fluoride in the water is essential for protection against dental caries and the weakening of the bones, but higher levels can have an adverse effect on health. In India, high fluoride content is found naturally in the waters in Rajasthan.
Children are the most susceptible to fluoride poisoning. It can lead to opaque white lesions on their teeth at low levels, and at higher levels, it can lead to discoloured and damaged teeth.
Fig 1 : discoloration, pitting, cracking and fissuring
- These may be airborne, or may be found in water, food, or other sources of exposure such as paint industries (lead poisoning)
- These can also cause damage to your teeth.
Fig 2 : mercury poisoning Fig 3 : arsenic poisoning
Fig 4 : lead poisoning
•Exposure to solvents and possibly to pesticides, fertilizers, engine exhaust, textile dust and leather dust also increase the risk of oral cancer. Indoor air pollution contributes to oral cancer, with other significant inflammatory respiratory diseases and infections.
• There is evidence from the epidemiologic data on the relation of prenatal air pollution exposure (particularly due to secondary smoking effect) and the risk of oral clefts.
Fig 5 : cleft lip and palate
Oral precancer (oral leukoplakia & oral submucous fibrosis) and cancer are complex multi-factorial diseases arising from the interplay between the genetic components and the environmental determinants.
Environmental exposures in farmers can be explained by solar (ultra violet) exposure. Climate change induced oxidative stress, dietary transition, contamination; impacts on food chain ecosystem and food security have increased the vulnerability to oral cancer.
Fig 6 : Oral carcinoma
There is a huge burden of oral diseases that afflict humankind, which require population-wide prevention and access to appropriate care. The links between general and oral health, particularly in terms of shared risk factors and other determinants like air and water pollution provide the basis for closer integration of oral and general health for the benefit of overall human health and well-being. Therefore, efforts have to be made to reduce the pollutants in all ways.
About the Author
This article has been contributed by the Department of Oral Pathology & Microbiology, Yenepoya Dental College under the Yenepoya (Deemed to be University) established in the year 1992, with its robust alumni of 3000 Under graduates and 67 Post graduates students and research scholars has many accolades and achievements to its credit. It strives to provide state of art Oral diagnostics and Molecular Pathology while excelling in research activities and instilling a holistic approach in dental education among students. Department contributes its expertise in fostering inter-disciplinary collaboration and providing exemplary education and scientific research.