If you have read these columns in the past, you have seen me write about periodontal (gum) health and its relationship to systemic health. There is a slew of scientific evidence that poor periodontal health is not good for you systemically. It has been linked to heart disease, stroke, low birth weight babies, diabetes and more.
Gum tissue health is an easy thing for patients to be lax about, or even ignore. Why? The main reason is that gum problems do not hurt, unless they are so severe that tooth loss is inevitable. It is the chronic inflammation in the gum tissue, regardless of whether it hurts or not, that has the potential to affect your teeth and your general health over time.
How many times have you been to the dentist and heard, “Mr. Smith, you have a lot more bleeding than you should around your gums”? You then respond by saying, “My gums don’t bleed when I brush.” And you hear, “You need to brush better.” Then it happens all over again the next time you are at the dentist.
If the goal is to keep your teeth and strive for good health, the scenario above is totally insufficient. We, dentists and patients, need to change our frame of mind about tissue health and really focus on the fact that chronic inflammation, anywhere in the body, is bad. Tissue health is achievable in every single person. It is a matter of changing our views on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable that can make a difference.
Patients love dentists who say that everything looks fine. Sometimes that is the case. However, most of the time there is room for improvement. If there were things in your mouth that could be healthier, would you rather have a dentist say that everything looked okay, or one who made suggestions for better health? Keep an open mind and be willing to put the effort in to make a healthier you.
The oral cavity and the gum tissue around each and every tooth is a haven for bacteria. Everyone has bacteria. It is how well the bacteria are controlled that determines tissue health. Patients typically do not want to hear that they need treatment. If you went to the physician and you had signs of heart disease, would you rather hear, “Mr. Smith, you have signs of heart disease. Let’s wait until you have a heart attack and then treat it.” vs. “Mr. Smith, you have signs of heart disease. These are the things that you should do to help prevent the progression of the disease. Let’s work together on lowering your risk of problems in the future.”
I have said it before and I’ll say it again – the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to your dental health is regular maintenance. Depending on a person’s needs, regular maintenance might be once a year for some, but every 2-3 months for someone else. Even if you have no dental benefits and are worried about needing a bunch of dental work, the best thing you can do for yourself is regular maintenance. Many dental offices have plans that are very reasonable to help you achieve better dental health.
The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body – don’t ignore it.
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at firstname.lastname@example.org