Quality of Life
and disorders that damage the mouth and face can disturb well-being and
self-esteem. The effect of oral health and disease on quality of
life is a relatively new field of research that examines the functional,
psychological, social, and economic consequences of oral
of the research has focused on a few conditions: tooth loss,
craniofacial birth defects, oral-facial pain, and oral cancer. The
impact of oral health on an individual’s quality of life reflects
complex social norms and cultural values, beliefs, and traditions.
is a long tradition of determining character on the basis of facial and
head shapes. Although cultures differ in detail, there appear to be
overall consistencies in the judgment of facial beauty and deformity
that are learned early in life. Faces judged ugly have been associated
with defects in character, intelligence, and morals.
Impact of Craniofacial-Oral-Dental Conditions on Quality of Life
teeth: People who have many missing teeth face a diminished
quality of life. Not only do they have to limit food choices because
of chewing problems, which may result in nutritionally poor diets, but
many feel a degree of embarrassment and self-consciousness that limits
social interaction and communication.
birth defects: Children with cleft lip or cleft palate experience
not only problems with eating, breathing, and speaking, but also have
difficulties adjusting socially, which affects their learning and
behavior. The tendency to “judge a book by its cover” persists in
the world today and accounts for many of the psychosocial problems of
persons affected by craniofacial birth defects.
pain: The craniofacial region is rich in nerve endings sensitive to
painful stimuli, so it is not surprising that oral-facial pain,
especially chronic pain conditions where the cause is not understood and
control is inadequate, severely affects quality of life. Conditions such
as temporomandibular (jaw joint)
disorders, trigeminal neuralgia, and postherpetic neuralgia (chronic
pain following an attack of shingles affecting facial nerves) can
disrupt vital functions such as chewing, swallowing, and sleep;
interfere with normal activities at home or work; and lead to social
withdrawal and depression.
Cancer: Surgical treatment for oral cancer may result in
permanent disfigurement as well as functional limitations affecting
speaking and eating. Given the poor prognosis for oral cancer (the
five-year survival rate is only 52 percent), it is not surprising that
depression is common in these patients.