Dentist column: Oral health is about more than your teeth
“Everything looks good, just brush and floss and we’ll see you again in six months.” This is the statement said hundreds of thousands of times a day in dental offices across the country, and something we used to say ourselves pretty routinely.
However, if everything “looks good” why are 80 percent of Americans still walking around with inflammation in their mouth? And by inflammation we mean gums that are red, that bleed when brushed or flossed, or teeth that have pain when you chew, bone loss and subsequent loose teeth.
Is it because we like the look of puffy, red gums and missing teeth? Doubtful. Is it because we haven’t been taught to take care of our mouth properly? Maybe. Is it because we’ve been patients in a medical and dental system that believes that diseases can only be managed and not cured? Absolutely.
Thankfully, dentistry is in the midst of its own health-care revolution that believes it’s our job not to treat disease, but prevent it in the first place.
So how do we get from the place of managing oral and systemic diseases to preventing them? The first thing we need to do as dental patients and as participants in the greater health-care system is acknowledge that a.) the mouth is in fact attached to the body, b.) what goes on in the mouth and lives in the mouth is important, and c.) the mouth truly is the mirror and the gateway to your total health for a lifetime.
We are learning on a daily basis the key to achieving and maintaining total health for a lifetime boils down to eliminating inflammation throughout the entire body, and yes this does include the mouth (see a., b., and c. above).
Thankfully as dentists in the Roaring Fork Valley, we get the chance to interact with wonderfully healthy, active, fit individuals every day who eat non-GMO foods, supplement, exercise and recreate, limit their exposure to environmental toxins, etc., all in the hope of achieving optimal health.
But the second we look in their mouth, we are able to see they have neglected or dismissed the one part of their body that is extremely accessible, responsive and responsible for the reduction of inflammation throughout the entire body. And just a quick reminder for those of you working so hard at healing inflamed, leaky guts — please keep in mind where the gut actually begins. Heal the mouth, heal the gut.
But why does this matter, what will healthy gums and teeth really do for your oral and total health? How about significantly reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, the delivery of pre-term babies and more as research is confirming every day proof the oral-systemic link is undeniable.
No judgment here, but if you or a loved one are among the 50 percent of 30-year-olds and the 80 percent of 65-year-olds walking around with unaddressed or poorly managed oral inflammation, you are setting yourself up for either being directly or indirectly affected by the first (heart disease), second (cancer), fifth (stroke), sixth (Alzheimer’s disease) and seventh (diabetes) killer or disabler of Americans.
The time has come where we can no longer compartmentalize medicine as providers or as patients, with wellness and prevention being the keys to saving our lives as well as the costs associated with our health care. I encourage you to not only invest the time and energy in yourself to get well and stay well without medicine, but also encourage collaboration between your dentist, physician and other health-care providers to help you achieve the level of total health you deserve.
Becky Steinbach and her husband, Schuyler Van Gorden, operate Elevate Dental in Willits.
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