Oral health, race, and ethnicity: Is there a connection?
- February 24, 2016
- 6 mins read
Not only traits but health conditions have been associated to race and ethnicity.
Certain physical attributes that a child has might have been associated to race and ethnicity. Thus, many would look after the bodily make up as well as the ancestry of parents to explain any unusual trait or behavior, or even, physical attribute a child possesses.
This is not surprising as a number of studies have shown that there are some diseases that are more common in particular racial or ethnic groups than in others. For instance, a severe hereditary form of anemia, which is medically known as the sickle cell disease is found to be affecting those that have African and Mediterranean ancestry. Another example of a disease reported to be more prominent in a specific group of people is Tay-Sachs disease, which is found to be an inherited metabolic disorder in which certain lipids build up in the brain and causes spasticity as well as death in childhood among Ashkenazi Jews. Lactase deficiency, on the other hand, which can cause difficulties for those whose diet include lactose, has been traced to be virtually common to all populations except those that trace their ancestry to Europe and a few regions in Africa, the Middle East, as well as in the south and central Asia.
One of the most intriguing aspect of link established between genetics, ethnicity, as well as diseases, is the survival rate between Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians who all have Alzheimer’s. The figures collected provided highly contradicting opinions, however. This specifically pertains to a 2007 report that involved 30,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease, African-Americans as well as Hispanics were reported to have outlived Caucasians and Asians. While the rate may bring about generic hypotheses on the survival rate for people with similar neural conditions, other psychological and environmental conditions still factor in, nonetheless.
Oral conditions are also linked to a person’s cultural and hereditary background
Just like these medical conditions, dental conditions are also being studied to ascertain whether there are specific dental disorders that can be traced to a person’s ethnicity and race. Dental experts believe that being able to trace dental conditions to certain race, ethnicity or culture will provide an easier way for them to come up with specific solutions to both traumatic as well as non-traumatic dental conditions for individuals who may come from different or mixed races. But, what information has been available up to this time?
Considering this, culture as well as socio-economic lifestyles that may be common to certain ethnicities may mean trouble, especially for those who come from the third-world countries. History has shown that young children are the most affected by the daily oral routines practiced as well as the delectable yet life-threatening meals fed by parents who see these foods as “instruments” to their child’s sustained growth. Taking away a healthy life from children at such an early and sensitive age will cause their health to suffer in the years that will follow. For instance, the African and Hispanic community were observed to outlive Caucasian and Asian races by a traction as proven by their mortality statistics. Moreover, patients from these races have been observed to often live the most burdened lives because of critical dental conditions caused by parental neglect as well as below-the-poverty-line living situations.
Major causes of dental caries, tooth decay, gingivitis, periodontal disease, oral cancer, and other minor as well as major dental conditions that have already been traced and attributed to certain culture or society are as follows: cigarette or tobacco smoking, consumption of alcoholic beverages, variations in food intake, as well as water supply. Lifestyle modifications, including a healthy diet may increase a person’s lifespan, however, we cannot deny that there are still other factors that may contribute to one’s overall health, such as religious practices, ancestry, ethnicity and race, which all play a determining role on a person’s life span.
In the case of oral cancer of which the cancerous tissues are located in the oral cavity, even though most experts associate this oral disorder to smoking, drinking as well as oral sex, much is still to be known if genetic predisposition as well as multi-racial genes obtained from ethnicity perform a key role in the condition’s development. Reports prove that the early signs of oral health conditions may also be more apparent in people who come from different or mixed races.
This is the condition of the population of those who participated in a study which posited that the rates of tooth decay as well as periodontal disease can be linked to ethnicity and country of origin, even among immigrants who have lived for many years in the United States. True to what was earlier thought, this study, which was conducted by a New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry research team, proved that immigrants’ ethnicity and country of origin may affect an individual’s overall oral health.
Does this assumption apply to all?
A good point to consider, however, is that even with all these already established fact is that regardless of race, education plays a key role in determining a person’s overall oral health. As such, health departments in countries with the highest mortality rates for a particular disease should elevate their concentration on the study of that disease. This particularly applies to people who already know that there have been deaths in the family line from a common disease.
At the moment, our knowledge about the biological and historical reasons for such variations is not sufficient. Moreover, considering our expanding knowledge of human population genetics, it makes it clear that we should still be cautious with assumptions about the presence or absence of a disease. Especially if observations are simply based on a patient’s external appearance or presumed membership in a particular racial or ethnic group.
Raising awareness on oral health is a must.
Though we may not neglect our genetic, racial, as well as our ethnic background, we still can put our hope for brighter smiles, especially for our younger generation. As long as we continue to help them realize the value of good oral health, no matter what ethnic background our children may have, they may be assured of healthy oral cavities that will keep their smiles bigger and brighter.