…ankle bone! It’s a silly little song we all heard as kids, but much like “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me!”, the real meaning seems to be lost today! Hopefully no one is ‘triggered’ or needs a ‘safe space’ to protect themselves from the problems in their mouth! The best approach is always being direct and honest and looking at the big picture, and that’s exactly how we engineer our hygiene visits here at Aesthetic Dentistry of Georgetown.
The Big Picture First
No question your teeth are important and their health important to us, but if we don’t zoom out a little, we fall into the trap that has caused so much trouble in dentistry! It is not just about the white things in your mouth! There are a lot of systemic issues and diseases that impact your oral health. Several of these happen to cause issue in both directions. From the teeth to the body as well as the body to the teeth.
There are a variety of significant and dangerous issues that can be seen and screened for in the mouth. In fact, we have several patients who were able to catch oral and head and neck cancers in the early stages because we look at more than just teeth!
Foundational concerns also need to be considered. How your bite fits is a significant driver for living a pain-free life, and in almost every person who has migraine pain, there’s a structural issue that we can see in the mouth. The other key to living a long and health life is a well supported airway that provides high quality sleep at night.
All of these issues are the first step before we even consider the health and situation of the teeth and gums.
The 6 Screenings
Knowing how interconnected the body is, we have built your new patient experience and re-care visits around the Six Screenings to protect your health. Each of them is an important step toward giving you the options to keep your mouth in optimal health and to allow you to keep your teeth for life.
Here’s the language you will hear us use during your hygiene visits:
- Risk Assessment
- Head & Neck Cancer Screening
- Bite Screening
- Airway Screening
- Restorative Screening
- Periodontal Screening
In your dental visits, we get to take a bird’s eye view of your overall health picture. There are many things the literature has helped us to be on alert for to keep you as healthy as possible. For instance, anyone who is taking two medications for high blood pressure is very likely to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and if you are on three, it’s almost a certainty. Or patients who have high HbA1C scores or are taking diabetes medication have a much higher risk of periodontal issues and the diabetes getting worse.
Head & Neck Cancer Screening
One person dies of oral cancer in the United States every hour. More than a third of those people have never used tobacco or abused alcohol. With any cancer, the earlier its caught, the better your chances are. We also use technology like the VelScope to screen for tissue color changes and catch these in the earliest stages possible.
Like tires on your car, it is hard to see wear happen since it occurs slowly over years. However, unlike tires on your car, the teeth should have very little wear even after 100 years of use! One of the amazing things about teeth is that the are so incredibly precise. Our body can feel less than the thickness of half of a hair!! As a protective mechanism, when we are using our teeth to chew, we should bite until we almost touch, but the teeth shouldn’t actually contact. That means that the only places where we find wear is if there is an abrasive substance in our food like sand, or we are grinding our teeth because of a bad bite.
Ignored by medicine until just recently, sleep and the understanding of it’s importance is one of the most rapidly emerging fields in health care. What we are learning is that the quantity and quality if your sleep has a dramatic and direct impact on your health and how long you life. Poor sleep leads to dementia and heart disease and diabetes and obesity and early mortality. It is massively important. And, when your bite closes further than it should, that forces your tongue into your airway and disrupts your sleep.
In 2017, the American Dental Association finally started publicly saying dentists should at least screen for sleep disorders. At Aesthetic Dentistry of Georgetown, this essential screening has been a part of our approach to protecting your health for almost 20 years! One of the things we keep an eye out for is dents from your teeth on the side of your tongue when you open your mouth. This is called scalloping of your tongue and 70% of the time it is present, there is an airway or sleep disordered breathing issue that you should be aware of.
What most dental offices focus on is the x-rays of your teeth. Obviously this is an important part of protecting your health and we use digital x-rays to protect your teeth and dramatically lower your exposure to radiation. In fact, having a full mouth series of x-rays like we take during your New Patient Experience, you get about the same amount of radiation as you would if you ate two bananas or lived in a brick house. But the key is it allows us to see amazing details and catch decay or dental problems at the earliest stages. Like any issue, the sooner you catch and address it, the easier, cheaper, and better it can be fixed. It is often said that delayed dentistry is the most expensive dentistry, and we find this to be true time and time again. It is a dis-service to ‘patch’ a filling and almost always ends up with more treatment being necessary to allow you to keep the tooth down the road.
Often referred to as the foundation of oral health, the condition of your gum tissue is vitally important to keeping your teeth for life. The reality is that it’s vitally important to keeping your body healthy for life too! If you have pockets in your gums that are deeper than 3mm, you simply can’t get to them and keep them clean. This allows bacteria to set up an amazingly intricate network and colonies that infect your gums and irritate the bone that holds your teeth in place. As this progresses, the infection starts causing bleeding and this is an important warning sign that you are experiencing irreversible bone loss. Our Periodontal Screening is designed to be a tight filter to find issues in their earliest stages and provide you with options to get your mouth healthy and keep your teeth for life.
Taken together, these 6 Screenings provide amazing insight into ways to protect your health and keep your teeth and gums and body in the best condition possible. There is also a nutritional and exercise component as well as emotional and mental health that play a part in a happy and fulfilled life. The key is to lead a life that is balanced and whole, and one of the most important things you can do is start with great oral health. At Aesthetic Dentistry of Georgetown, it’s in our DNA to help to create and protect beauty, health, and confidence with you in your smile. If you would like to join our dental family, give us a call and set up your New Patient Experience!