The Mouth/Body Connection: I am your dentist, but I care about more than just your teeth and gums!
By: Dr. Alison Jones
Did you know that your mouth is part of your body? Duh! Right? That might seem like an obvious statement...but think about what that really means. The health of our mouth affects our systemic health and vice versa. Sometimes patients come to the dentist and think we are just supposed to poke at each tooth with that little pointy thing to look for cavities, remind your to brush and floss and say "see you in 6 months!" Okay, yes, we do that...but there is so much more that we do during your dental exam! As your dentist, I am concerned about you as a whole person, and how your mouth and body affect one another.
Part of the reason that I ask every patient fill out a very detailed health history form is because everything that is happening to your body, and the medications you take can affect your oral health and can influence the way we can best care for you. It is possible to experience nutritional deficiencies or go through hormonal shifts that have an enormous impact on your mouth. I need to look at the WHOLE picture of what is going on with your health and lifestyle to best understand, diagnose and treat your mouth. In addition, there are times when I see something going on in your mouth that indicates a need for a referral to your physician or a specialist to properly diagnose and treat an underlying condition of which you might not even be aware. In some cases, it's simply asking you to be aware of some things in your daily life that you may have not given much thought previously. Questions about your diet, your stress level, changes in lifestyle, sleep patterns, etc can help me understand what is going on in your mouth and decide how to best approach the issue from a holistic point of view and not just a myopic one.
Day after day, I talk to patients about how the health of their gums and teeth are closely related to the health of their heart, immune system, musculoskeletal system, overall energy, mood and many other aspects of our health and wellness. For patients with diabetes, heart disease, GI disorders, sleep disorders, inflammatory conditions, autoimmune diseases and patients who are pregnant or have any hormonal changes...maintaining optimal oral health is even more important than you may realize! Many times I can tell how much stress a patient may be under just by doing an oral exam. They eyes may be the window to our soul, but the mouth is the window to the inside of our body and very telling about our health and lifestyle.
Yes, when I do your exam, I am looking for healthy gums and checking for cavities and fractured teeth. But, I am also looking for patterns, changes, symptoms, signs, connections and a "big picture" that might help us treat you in the most comprehensive way and help change, slow or prevent progression of disease processes in your mouth and body. You may hear me ask you more questions than usual during an exam or ask that you come back for another appointment when we can spend more time on properly diagnosing and treatment planning for your individual needs. It's important to me that if we see bleeding or swollen gums, we don't just tell you to floss more and send you on your merry way for another six months. Sometimes, we might notice a change in your overall health along with your bleeding gums that indicates we need to spend more time on the issue.
If you ever have any concerns about how a change in your health or a change in your mouth might affect each other, please give me the opportunity to discuss that at your next appointment. Even though I am your dentist, I am committed to taking care of you as a whole person!
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Ali Jones, D.D.S. - Dentist