Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 May 2010
Recent research has forged a link between oral health and systemic health such that the relationship can no longer be ignored. Periodontitis and the attendant inflammatory response and byproducts have been linked to cardiovascular disease, preterm low-birth-weight infants, and have relationships to diabetic control and severity. It is incumbent on the practicing physician to have a basic knowledge of the oral and maxillofacial region as well as the pathological changes likely to occur. Oral disease such as periodontitis and dental caries, specifically root surface caries, is particularly prevalent in the elderly population. The baby boomer generation will present challenges to the medical health care system and to those delivering dental care. The rate of edentulism for those older than age 65 years has dropped from 40% in the 1980s to approximately 20% in the beginning of the twenty-first century. This number is expected to decrease further in the coming years. There will be a large increase in retained teeth over the next few decades. Dental caries and periodontitis therefore will be present in many of these patients due to the presence of teeth.
As the initial portion of the aero-digestive tract, the maxillofacial structures form an important, interrelated complex of skin, mucosa, joints, bones, glandular tissues, vessels, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and teeth. These structures work together to allow an individual to speak, masticate, provide for facial expression, swallow, breathe, and allow for immunological and physical protection. Importantly, these structures also provide facial support and esthetics that are critical to self-esteem.