Shifting the Paradigm in Modern Dentistry

Did you know that dentistry is thought to be the first subdivision off of medicine (like your primary care provider medicine)? Gosh, has the association drifted…

I’d like to shed some light on the discrepancy that now faces medicine and dentistry.

The truth is, previous and current published literature emphasizes the importance of the systemic connection between oral health and whole body health. So the widening gap between the two fields is problematic, to say the least.

Here’s where I have pinpointed the breakdown: Our current model of dental decay is based on Millers Acidogenic Theory. This theory only considers the oral environment, which is outdated and just clinically untrue.

As a progressive practitioner, I want to disrupt the current paradigm and begin shifting it in a new direction. A direction returning toward medicine. This is my goal because time and time again I have seen the difference in my patients by addressing them comprehensively.

See, there are many patients who brush three times a day with their Sonicare toothbrush, floss after every meal, oil pull, have perfect diets, and STILL get cavities. It truly is a heart-wrenching experience to tell them that there is still a disease present.

If this is you, please hear me, YOU ARE DOING ENOUGH. You do not need to do anymore, or be any better.

It is our responsibility as health care practitioners to “do no harm”. Licensed professionals take this oath before graduating, and now it’s time to re-evaluate the model which our current treatment and protocols are based to make sure we are keeping our promises.

The oral-systemic connection is not new, so let me briefly review the very basics.

The last time I checked, what happens in the mouth does not stay there. Saliva is secreted, and we swallow that saliva approximately 600-700 times per day! That means the mouth is PART of the GI tube, which contains our stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, most of our immune system, and is home to billions of bacteria that run the show, and even outnumber our human cells!

Our gut is connected to our brain, blood, and lymph nodes. Our mouth is also connected to the nose, and throat, and sits at the base of our brain stem.

I recently saw two emergency patients for pain in an upper back tooth. After radiographs and testing to rule out possible decay and infection, we found that the tooth was hurting because the maxillary sinus was inflamed and swollen. It’s allergy season, and that inflammation was putting pressure on the root of the tooth! These patients had no idea that this was even possible and were surprised to learn that allergies could cause a “toothache”.

An even more important aspect of oral health is that chronic oral infections, including asymptomatic infected teeth, root canaled teeth, and chronic periodontal disease have been directly correlated with heart disease. This is why I recommend seeing a biologic dentist who has a CBCT which allows them to take 3-D scans. 3-D images can catch problems earlier than traditional x-rays, and they’re generally more conclusive which leads to more accurate diagnosing.

Pathogens, toxins, bacteria cause chronic inflammation which has now been recognized as the culprit of chronic disease. In 2008 according to Humphrey, “Periodontal disease has also been recognized as an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease” (source) Other studies show that the DNA of oral pathogens typical for root canal and gum infection flora has consistently been identified in coronary atherosclerotic plaque (source, source, source)

Ignoring or dismissing any type of chronic infection can have monumental consequences, which is why I believe education is the single most important aspect of healthcare. It’s how we empower our patients to make smart decisions, and it’s how we begin to shift the paradigm.

As multiple authors and journals that have been suggesting this for years, disease is a systemic issue. That means all kinds of healthcare providers should be involved.

How do we get there? By educating our doctors, dentists, physicians, and patients. The best treatment is always preventative. If we can begin teaching young children (parents before they become parents!) about what they can do to ensure fabulous oral and systemic health for their future children, think about how much better off, more productive, happy, healthy, and amazing will our world be!

Do you want to hear more about paradigm shifts and their role in integrative healthcare? Stay tuned, next blog post about chronic inflammation and why we need to look at the whole person to treat dental disease.

Kristen Graham

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