Our mouths speak volumes about our overall well being, so the dental team is perfectly placed to act as gatekeepers to many pathways to better health.
Dentistry in 2017 is less to do with invasive intervention and very much more to do with prevention, healthy function and great aesthetics.
Additionally, oral health education makes for a natural bedfellow for nutritional advice, smoking cessation guidance and health and wellbeing promotion – all of which contributes to a dazzling smile.
And you don’t necessarily have to see a dentist to get key oral health advice that will help you achieve the foundations for a smile makeover. Did you know that you can now seek treatment from a dental hygienist or therapist without first having to see the dentist?
Besides having an overarching responsibility for oral health care, a dental hygienist or therapist is also perfectly placed to meet your overall health needs.
If the mouth is the window on our health – and there is a wealth of evidence to support this – then our periodontal (gum) status and systemic health is an important issue.
Dental therapist and comparethetreatment.com expert Melonie Prebble explains: ‘Regular dental examinations give us both the time and opportunity to detect “hidden” health problems. Patients usually present at the practice when seemingly healthy, so we are on the frontline. Additionally, recording a patient’s medical history at every visit can highlight any risks and we can review habits jointly.’
So, what can the dental team learn from looking inside your mouth?
• Excessive alcohol consumption
Alcohol tends to be high in sugar and is also acidic so it can cause teeth to erode (and if excessive drinking leads to vomiting, this too contributes to tooth erosion). It can result in pain and sensitivity and, if you’re unlucky, you’ll need expensive restorative treatment if you don’t quit the habit. So use a straw to drink to avoid the alcohol touching teeth and avoid swishing drinks around the mouth. Also, try waiting an hour after consuming an booze before brushing your teeth to avoid damaging the softened enamel.
Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking both impact on oral health, besides the wider negative health implications. Scientists have found links between gum disease and lung cancer, gastric cancers, oesophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer
Many cases of diabetes in the UK are un-diagnosed and dentists and their teams have a useful role to play. If you are diabetic, your dental clinic can help manage your diet to control any negative impact it has on your periodontal status. Some dental practices even offer screening opportunities with blood glucose testing.
Stress can lead to serious damage to our teeth and can cause bruxism (teeth grinding), which not only wears down teeth, but also increases the risk of developing headaches, TMJ disorders and facial pain.
Did you know women with gum disease are more likely to deliver premature or low birth weight babies than mums with good dental health? As a mum-to-be, make sure you keep those dental appointments so the dentist can keep an eye on your gum health!
Oral hygiene can be a risk factor for hypertension and looking after your teeth and gums doesn’t only help to control the condition, it an also prevent it.
Osteoporosis can affect bones and that includes those in your jaw, which in turn can lead to tooth loss. Dental X-rays can reveal any problems and loss of bone density.
• Respiratory disease
Poor oral hygiene can lead to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially for those of with serious gum disease. Conversely, respiratory diseases (and the medication you take for them) can have a significant effect on oral health, ranging from dry mouth to infections and an increase in plaque.
Ask an Expert
Find a dental practitioner