Quality & Affordable Dentistry in Malaysia

The Mouth Body Connection

Posted by dentist3 in Dental Articles | 0 comments

The fact that the health of your mouth affects your body should not come as a shock. The fact that dentists are trained in separate professional schools than physicians and other health care providers means nothing other than dentistry is a specialty of health care.

So, why is there a disconnect? Why do people have the idea that dentistry doesn’t have an effect on their overall health?

Well. I think it’s for a number of reasons.

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Number one is our medical brethren, particularly physicians, who are not taught that the mouth has much to do with the work they do. In fact, they’re taught next to nothing about teeth, gum disease and dental health. They look past the teeth. For many, the body starts at the throat.

The doctors with the fullest understanding are the physicians who are attuned to the interaction between oral health and total body health. Many cardiologists have come to realise that dental disease has a direct effect on the heart and advise their patients accordingly. “Get your teeth fixed and keep them that way,” can become life – saving for the heart patient or those who have suffered strokes.

Some endocrinologists now understand that diabetes and dentistry are intimately connected. What makes dental health worse will make diabetes worse, and what makes diabetes worse will make dental health worse. Likewise, improving your dental health makes it easier to control your diabetes.

Some orthopedists require their patients to get a clean bill of dental health before they will do significant bone/joint surgery. They learned that lesson the hard way. Poor dental heath with active disease was traced back as a primary reason that some orthopaedic surgeries failed. 

The second reason for the disconnect is the media. Television, newspapers, magazines, and books largely ignore dentistry as part of the prescription for health. I don’t think it’s the right idea. I don’t know why it’s there. I attribute it to physicians’ roles of sole arbiters of health in our society.

There’s this sort of weird disbelief that people have about the connection between their mouth and their health. But with what we know now, this connection of the oral health with the total body health has never been as clear.

Understand this: infections in your mouth cause inflammation in your body. How so?

If your gums bleed, you have at least a low-grade infection in your mouth. And such an infection in your mouth causes your liver to secrete three things.

Number one, it causes your liver to secrete more cholesterol. The liver is the main source of cholesterol in the body in the first place, and a mouth infection boosts its normal secretion.

Number two, it increases your glucose level, which only makes sense. The body takes inflammation to equal infection. And since the body must fight infection, it produces more glucose for cells to have the strength to make this fight.

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Number three, is called C-reactive protein, which we’re only beginning to understand. -reactive protein is an inflammatory marker. Meaning, as inflammation increases, the amount of C-reactive protein increases as well.

A normal measurement for C-reactive protein in health is between 1 and 3. Three is a bit high; less than one is very good. We find that in those with chronic gum disease, the amount of C-reactive protein is directly linked to the severity of the disease.

That is a very bad thing because we know that the higher the C-reactive protein, the more likely you are to have a whole set of problems you want no part of; like heart attack, stroke and diabetes, which is particularly problematic for those with gum disease, because gum disease and diabetes both amplify each other. 

Diabetes makes the gum disease worse and the gum disease makes the diabetes worse. (Yes, we know we have repeated ourselves, but it bears repeating.)

The inflammatory response to a gum infection can also affect a pregnant female, increasing the likelihood of premature births and low birth weight babies.

Some medical insurance companies have recognised this, too. They provide some dental care for pregnant mothers under the medical insurance because they know it decreases the money they spend to care for these new babies.

Likewise, gum disease increases the risk of developing a number of cancers, including deadly pancreatic cancer; by as much as 59% over someone who does not have significant gum problems.

The bacteria in the mouth can re-seed gastric ulcers by transferring H.Pylori from the oral tissue to the gut. This can start the ulcer all over again.

Inflammation in the mouth increases upper respiratory diseases like pneumonia. Breathing those bacteria in from your mouth when you have gum disease is not good for you.

Inflammation in the mouth worsens both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, it has been shown that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are 400% more likely to have periodontal (gum) disease! It has an effect on snoring and sleep apnea.

As you are likely aware from your own experience, a large portion of the adult population snores. And approximately 10% of the adult population has some form of sleep apnea. The more severe the sleep apnea, the more it inhibits proper sleep. And we’ve discovered that lack of sleep alters the secretion of a hormone called leptin, increasing your appetite, creating a direct effect on obesity.

One of the emerging areas of research is inflammation and its effects on your total health. We know that gum disease affects seventy-five percent of the population of North America. This ranges from slight to severe. The more severe the gum disease is, the greater the level of inflammation.

One hypothesis is that diabetes mellitus is a disease caused by inflammation. There have been over 1,000 articles written since 2005 on the connection between diabetes and your oral health.

Smile Transformations

As many people travel through life, they get behind, so to speak, on their dental health. For myriad reasons – a failure to see a need, a previous bad experience, financial concerns, paying to get the kids through college and others – they ignore the warning signs. Then one day, they wake up to realise what they have lost.

“Hey, I want my smile back,” is the common remark they make when they visit us.

What they are asking for is a smile makeover, what we sometimes call a smile renaissance.

Whether your dental health is a disaster or you just want to look your best, today’s dentistry can give you the smile you have always wanted. You can experience your very own version of a smile renaissance. It can have immense effect for you personally.

A smile renaissance can literally transform the way you look. It can make wrinkles, and facial imperfections seem to disappear. If you ever watched the makeover shows on TV, you remember that the dental work often made the biggest difference in how they looked.

A smile makeover or enhancement can create an enormous physical transformation. Who doesn’t want a great looking smile?

What you may not take into account is the effect the physical transformation has on the rest of your life. This physical transformation is the first part of what I call the PIES formula. PIES stand for Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual. What happens in one part of your life in any one of those dimensions will usually affect all the other parts.

If you improve your physical appearance, it has a ripple effect. If you look better, you feel better about yourself. Others will likely think you more intelligent, and emotionally, you’ll feel better. You may arouse interest of that certain someone you want noticing you. In fact, studies have shown that the better you look, the better others treat you. It’s human nature. 

People inherently know this, that’s why they “dress up” for significant events, celebrations and times – so they can look as good as possible.

I’ve had many of these big problem patients say, “I’m the worst case you’ve ever seen,” and I have to reassure them that they are not. We can help virtually anyone have a good looking smile again and regain their dental health.

Not all dentists are equally qualified to do this kind of work. It takes a lot of training, talent, skill, art and science to do these smile transformations. So make sure that you find someone who is experienced and does this unique type of work on a regular basis. Why? Because it requires us to consider every facet of dentistry, hundreds of considerations, big and small, to properly diagnose and treat cases like these.

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We must consider the biology of the teeth and gums, whole body health, the biomechanics of function, the bio-structural integrity of the treatment we are performing, the cosmetic realities and patient concerns to ensure that we build a smile that helps you get your “smile mojo” back. We have to consider your age and stage in life, your chewing habits, diet, jaw joint health and durability requirements of the treatment we will be performing.

We have to ask ourselves, “Given this patient’s situation, wants, and needs, what makes the best long term solution?”

Just as importantly, we have to consider how your past experiences have impacted you and what we need to do to help you get past any bad ones.

Often, we will show you your smile changing possibilities before we ever start by showing you how you’ll look after the treatment is completed. We do this using a computer program and your photos to simulate just how good your smile can look after we are finished. Most people are surprised at the huge difference.

A common comment is, “I had no idea that I could look that good again!” or another one, “I never looked that good even with my old teeth!” While it is but a simulation, usually our patients look better than the simulated smile when we are finished with the actual treatment.

Sadly, some people say, “Well, I’m not sure I’m worth all that. That seems like a lot for me to do.”

I understand the feeling. And smile transformations often are a lot of work.

But are you worth it? If you believe in yourself and your contributions to other people, then you’ll answer in the affirmative. There is another altruistic reason why you should get this kind of work done if you need it.

A mentor once told me, “If you’re trying to give to everybody else, but your own cart is empty, what are you going to give?”

You’re responsible for filling yourself up so you have enough to give to others no matter if it’s intellectually, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.

For many, getting their smile back fills them up in a way that they never thought possible. It literally changes their life. It affects their work, their love life, and their relationships with friends and family.

But the biggest change is how they feel about themselves. I’ve had many a patient say, “I did this because it was my turn. I’ve been doing for others for so long; Now it’s time for me.”

And they’re right. It was their turn. For me, this kind of dentistry is the most challenging and the most difficult. It also has the biggest rewards.

And as you’ve read, fixing a broken smile is about more than your looks. It’s about your health. It’s about how you’re going to live your life. It is about recovering from the ravages of the past and finally getting the look you’d like to have.

Could it create a whole new you? It just might. We have seen it do the same for so many.

No dentist can guarantee that it’ll change your life. But any of us can tell you this: smile transformations mean profound differences for many, and have changed many lives for the positive.

I remember one specific patient who got three promotions during the few months we were treating him. As he went from having unsightly gaps and holes in his mouth to actually having a full beautiful smile, he really blossomed. I’m not sure it was the smile that changed things so much for him or how much better he felt about himself.

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Frustrations and Disappointments

We hear many patients express frustrations and disappointments to us. I’d like to address some of those here.

A common one is: I’m so embarrassed about my teeth that I was almost ashamed to open up to let you see.

We understand. We do this kind of work on a regular basis, so we understand how you feel. Rest assured, it would be nearly impossible for us to be shocked or surprised at anyone’s condition. So just relax. We do this all the time.

We can help virtually everybody. Sometimes it takes a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of money and many months of care, but we can help virtually anyone. Other times, few simple changes can make a profound difference.

The good news is you don’t have to wait months and months to get a smile back. You could start on your own route back right away. Often we can improve things in just one or two visits while you are in treatment.

Another question that’s not so much stated, as sensed: Who can I trust? I’ve tried dental care in the past. I’ve spent thousands and yet here I am again.

We understand. Usually it is impossible for us to know your circumstances and what went on in the past. What we can do is to ferret out why you are having problems now and give you measures to stop them in the future.

The biggest mistake you as a consumer can make is not making sure that you’ve had a complete diagnosis of the problem. While there may be one diagnosis, there are many ways to solve each problem.

It is our job to help you decide on the optimum way for you to fix your teeth and get healthy again. This can involve teeth that don’t come out or removable teeth. The more you want your teeth to look, function and be like natural teeth, the higher the fee will be to get you there.

So, if you’ve been disappointed in prior care, there are generally three reasons. One, inadequate diagnosis of the problems and their root causes. Two, you didn’t complete the care recommended, or three, it was an inadequate plan of care for what you wanted and needed. 

In dentistry we’re working with you on three levels.

• Prevention: prevent problems in the first place. This requires at least two visits a year for maintenance and procedures that prevent problems of cavities, gum disease, and bite problems in the first place

• Solving the problems: We’re solving the problems with you; working together to manage your experience comfortably.

• Prevention and maintenance again. Ensuring the treatment that has been done continues to work well and preventing new problems.

Now, it can be hard for you to know these things. So, in evaluating a dentist you want to make sure that they can show you before and after pictures of cases they have done. Make sure they can show you pictures of the same types of cases as yours, with the same solutions. Check for testimonials from patients, and see what other dentists say about them. Take a close look at their schooling, ongoing training, and if possible, what their staff thinks of them.

All of these can help you decide if you’ve found the right place. Just because someone has years and years of experience does not mean that they are qualified to help you. Excelling at this kind of dentistry is all about talent, training, care, skill, experience and judgment.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me about all my problems before?” People ask me that a lot.

Well, it is possible that someone did try to tell you before but you weren’t open to hearing the story at that time.

Maybe the person working with you didn’t know enough to tell you everything you need to know or was in some way inadequate in helping you arrive at an understanding of what needed to be done.

Lastly, it is possible they didn’t check everything that needed to be checked.

They weren’t comprehensive in their evaluation of you. A lament I hear is: “No matter what I do, nothing seems to work.”

If that is true for you, there is a reason. It comes from what I call Scotch tape dentistry. That’s dentistry that’s a patch or short-term solution. The more complex your needs and problems, the more you need complete care to insure that it will work.

Another comment almost every dentist hears: “I didn’t know my teeth affected my health.”

As you’ve already read in this book, your teeth and gums matter to your health to a great extent. Their health does affect the quality of your life. So, there’s no question about that any more.

Another comment I hear: The dentist didn’t seem interested in me. If you want any dentist to be interested in you, get interested in your own dental health and listen to what the dentist has to say. Get involved. Get interactive. Accept treatment suggestions rather than deny them.

It is important for a dentist to be interested in you. The dentist should listen to your concerns and answers your questions.

Unknowingly, some people will say things to a dentist like, “No hard feelings, doc, but I hate dentists,” or “Nothing seems to work,” and it’s all negative, negative, negative, at some point even the very best dentists are going to say, “Gosh, I’m dealing with someone who won’t even hear what I have to say. I can really help him if he will let me.”

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The reality is that a relationship with a dentist is very much like a health partnership. We have to work together to get your oral health in order and keep it that way. Without your cooperation, we can do little that matters to you, long term. This is quite unlike a physician’s workings with you. 

A visit to your medical doctor is usually short and involves a brief exam and typically a prescription for a medication. We, as dentists, are performing procedures. Our time together is longer and we must have your cooperation and help to get the work done at all.

Another common frustration is the fact that fixing your teeth and your smile does cost a lot. There’s no doubt. But it’s worth every ringgit.

People have a natural tendency to forget something once it’s fixed. Unfortunately, problems don’t stay solved unless they’re maintained. People who religiously change their oil every 3,000-5,000KM, paint their house every five years, or clean their windows every spring, very often forget about their dental care.

The solution is to find a dentist you can trust and work with the doctor as a partner. Get your care done completely, while working together with your dentist to maintain your teeth and create a positive dental experience.

Consider the dentist’s world. He spends his day doing meticulous procedures through a three inch hole, upside down and backwards in a mirror on a squirming patient. Most good dentists work with magnification optics and work to tolerances of tenths of millimeters, smaller than the period of the end of this sentence. Top dentists have highly developed hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. Every filling or restoration done is a completely custom job.

When completed, every dental restoration is subjected to a harsh environment. It is under water and in acid and digestive enzymes 24/7. They are subject to hundreds of pounds of pressure a thousand times a day and go from hot coffee to freezing ice cream. It is nothing less than miraculous that dental restorations exposed to these factors can last 10-15-20-30 or more years.

If someone built a car or a watch or a house that lasted that long under these conditions they would be on the cover of Time Magazine..perhaps win a Nobel Prize.

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