Biological Dentistry on the Frontlines of Total Health

Last month’s article presented a simplified view of the body’s status from healthy to a not healthy state. Success of treatment is clearly a reflection of accurate history and diagnosis. Dentists are key players in maintaining patients’ overall health. They typically see patients twice a year and play a pivotal part in helping to prevent and detect a variety of systemic health problems.

In dentistry one of the basic and traditional methods of determining health status is full mouth x-rays to see the extent and quality of the bone supporting the teeth and possible breakdown of the teeth. The visual examination of the oral tissue also reveals the current condition related to health and/or disease. Many health problems can be identified, for instance, oral cancer screening reveals lesions that appear on the lining of the patient’s cheek, the gum, lips, hard and soft palate and tongue.

Another major health concern is diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association an estimated 21 million Americans have diabetes, and one-third of those with the disease are unaware of it. For their part, dentists can help identify incipient problems by frequently updating patient history forms and taking special note of symptoms such as increasing incidents of extreme thirstiness, frequent urination, vision problems such as blurring, seeing rings around light spots, flashing lights, difficulty reading and numbness in toes.

Osteoporosis afflicts about 44 million Americans according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). Dental panoramic x-rays overtime can detect bone density changes suggesting referral to physicians for a screening.

While it is often discounted as “just heartburn”, gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a potential life-threatening condition that can lead to cancer of the esophagus. During routine exams, dentists can be the first healthcare profession to see the early signs of the disease, including erosion, dishing of the chewing surfaces of teeth and other abnormal wearing of the teeth.

“People lose sight of the fact that their head is attached to the rest of their body”, says Kenneth Krebs, D.M.D., president of the American Academy of Periodontology. The dentist may be the most important doctor you see this year. Saying that, we need to express the importance of collaboration of all medical counterparts to treat the total body. A general consensus among health care practitioners is that inflammation is at the core of the disease processes and is driven by life style choices and other factors.

Stress from various sources (mental, environmental, toxins, etc.) appears to be responsible for imbalances in the body. A recent tool for correlating the relationship of oral disease is a total body scan using biofeedback principles. This can be invaluable to identify blockages to treatment in the oral cavity if another part of the body is out of balance and needs to be brought back into alignment.