Physiology and Pathophysiology

The relationship between nutrition and oral health is many-sided. Nutrition includes both local and systemic impacts on the oral cavity. While diet and eating patterns have local effects on the teeth, saliva and soft tissues, the systemic impacts of nutrition also have significant implications that merit consideration as components of both oral and complete health. Systemic effects of nutrients are their biological functions in relation to development and maintenance of extra- and intra-oral structures and secretions. Adequate nutrient supply is vital to: growth, development, and maintenance of tissues; efficiency of the immune system; prevention of cell damage; and increased resistance to some infectious diseases. Functional properties of the oral cavity include taste, salivation, mastication, and swallowing food. Alterations in oral cavity structure and function may compromise intake and contribute to the development of nutrient-deficiency states, thus leading to subsequent inadequate dietary intake and compromised nutrition status.