Bacterial Diseases of the Upper Alimentary System

It may be surprising that the most common bacterial disease of human beings occurs in the mouth, and that bacterial infections of the stomach are not only common but can lead to ulcers and cancer. These infections often go unnoticed for years but have consequences both locally and for the rest of the body. Oral flora, for example, can enter the bloodstream during dental procedures and cause subacute bacterial endocarditis, and some studies suggest that chronic gum infections play a role in hardening of the arteries and arthritis. The most important bacterial diseases of the upper alimentary system concern the teeth, the gums, and the stomach. ■ subacute bacterial endocarditis, p. 718

602 Chapter 24 Alimentary System Infections

Tooth Decay (Dental Caries)

Dental caries, generally known as tooth decay, is the most common infectious disease of human beings. The cost to restore and replace teeth damaged by this disease is estimated to be about $20 billion per year in the United States. Dental caries is the main reason for tooth loss. In the different states of the United States, from 14% to 47% of people aged 65 or older have lost all their teeth.

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