Background

Oral health is related to diet in many ways, for example, through nutritional influences on cranio-facial development, oral cancer and oral infectious diseases. The purpose of this review, however, is to focus on the nutritional aspects of dental diseases. Dental diseases include dental caries, developmental defects of enamel, dental erosion and periodontal disease. Dental diseases are a costly burden to health care services, accounting for between 5% and 10% of total health care expenditures and exceeding the cost of treating cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis in industrialized countries (1). In low-income countries, the cost of traditional restorative treatment of dental disease would probably exceed the available resources for health care. Dental health promotion and preventive strategies are clearly more affordable and sustainable.

Although not life-threatening, dental diseases have a detrimental effect on quality of life in childhood through to old age, having an impact on self-esteem, eating ability, nutrition and health. In modern society, a significant role of teeth is to enhance appearance; facial appearance is very important in determining an individual's integration into society, and teeth also play an essential role in speech and communication. Oral diseases are associated with considerable pain, anxiety and impaired social functioning (2, 3). Dental decay may result in tooth loss, which reduces the ability to eat a nutritious diet, the enjoyment of food, the confidence to socialize and the quality of life (4-6).

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