Healthy Teeth-Healthy Body : Browse the Book – Chapters
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Dental disease is not an obscure and mysterious ailment. You didn’t inherit dental disease from your mom or your grandfather. It’s not something that was left behind by visiting aliens. You don’t get it from kissing, and in spite of what some people believe, it certainly isn’t part of a secret plot by the dental profession to stir up business.
Dental disease is not only a disease of the mouth but also a disease of the body. Any time a part of your body becomes diseased, it affects your entire body’s immune system. The stress can become most harmful when the disease is a chronic one, which is the form of dental disease that most people suffer from.
Dental disease, especially gum disease, starts slowly, increases in severity, and then tenaciously hangs on. It doesn’t take long for it to overload your body’s protective defenses twenty-four hours a day, for as long as you have the disease.
Not only does it drain your energy, it ends up dramatically lowering your body’s resistance to any other disease to which you may be exposed. When you look dental disease in this way, you can no longer afford to think of dental disease as an insignificant or harmless condition that affects only your teeth.
Gum disease is less commonly known as periodontal disease. Although the term gum disease is a familiar one and easy to remember, it’s not an altogether accurate term and it doesn’t convey the seriousness of the disease.
The dental community acknowledges two main stages of periodontal (meaning around the tooth) disease. The first is a disease of the gums, or gingiva, called gingivitis. Uncared for it will lead to a more serious form or gum disease, periodontitis, which is a disease of the ligament and bone that hold your teeth in your jaws. While tooth decay may wound a tooth, the real killer of teeth is periodontal disease. If we had a criminal penal code for classifying the seriousness of dental disease, decay would be considered a misdemeanor and periodontal disease would be a felony.
It’s one thing to think you might have a ‘little’ gum problem. It’s another thing entirely to realize that this disease actually infects and destroys the tissues, ligaments, and bones of your body. If you knew the tissues, ligament, and bones in your arm were slowly being destroyed I’d venture to guess that you would immediately see a doctor. Am I right? Well the only difference between the two is where they are located and the tissues, ligaments, and bones of your mouth are every bit as much a part of your body as those of your arm. Ponder that for a few moments.
In the process of infecting your gums, ligaments, and surrounding bone, bacteria and toxins can gain access to the blood supply and can cause, contribute, or make worse just about every disease we know of. There can no longer be any doubt about the seriousness of gum disease and the harmful effect it has on overall health. If you truly want to be healthy you can no longer afford to ignore the relationship of oral health to overall health!
You need to understand health before you can understand disease, so in this chapter I will describe the look, feel, and smell of healthy gums. After that I’ll tell you how to spot the telltale signs of gum disease, using my home method of oral self-examination. Then, in the second part of this chapter, you’ll examine your teeth. And in the third part, you’ll take a look at your tongue, glands, and saliva.
By examining your own mouth before you are professionally examined at the dental office, and before you begin your new oral hygiene program, you’ll get your own visual reference point from which to monitor your progress.
If you repeat your oral self-examination after spending three to four weeks on your dental disease prevention program, you’ll see for yourself how much can be accomplished through your own efforts at oral hygiene. Because the improvement you will witness will be the result of your efforts, seeing it for yourself will be very motivating and empowering. I am confident that your oral self-examination will show you things about your mouth that you have never seen before. Amazing when you think that you’ve lived with your mouth your entire life.
Healthy Teeth-Healthy Body will make you a specialist in dental disease prevention. Like any specialist, you need to be thoroughly knowledgeable about the tools of your trade. You’ll need to know which tools are available and how to pick the best tools for your unique oral condition. How and when you use these tools is a critically important part of a successful oral hygiene program. When you finish this chapter you will know how to use every important dental preventive tool and why. If you want your dental disease prevention program to be successful you can’t afford to skip this chapter.
Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground together. Now you understand the cause of tooth decay and gum disease. You also know how to perform an oral self-examination and which tools you need to fight these diseases. But acquiring knowledge is not enough. You must turn that knowledge into action. If you’re ready to do that, this is the chapter that will show you how.
When you have integrated what you learn in this chapter with the instructions and guidance your hygienist and dentist provide, you will have a dental disease prevention program that is customized to your mouth. However, understand that no matter how well your hygiene program is designed, you must also be willing to include all of the following actions as part of your total prevention program.
- Have existing tooth and gum disease treated. Remember, you must first get rid of the disease before you can prevent its return.
- Do as much as you can to change your diet from a dental disease-promoting one to a dental disease-preventing one.
- Resolve to brush, irrigate, floss, pick, or perform any combination of these activities immediately after eating any refined or processed foods.
- Periodically do an oral self-examination.
- Follow the cleaning recall schedule established by your hygienist.
Because this book’s main focus is on prevention, this chapter is devoted to the person who will, if you let her or him, play the most critical role in your overall dental disease prevention program—the registered dental hygienist (RDH). (Many dentists perform hygiene therapy as well, so when I refer to the hygienist, I’m also including them.)
In this chapter you will discover what she does and why, as well as how to take full advantage of her knowledge and experience. Establishing a positive relationship with the dental hygienist could make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful oral hygiene program. And as with any harmonious relationship, both participants will benefit from it, a classic win-win situation.
This chapter is also intended to help make your dental hygienist’s work easier and certainly more rewarding. There are other sections in the book you may be able to browse through or skip altogether, but this is not one of them. In fact, if you have moderate to advanced gum disease this could be the most important chapter in Healthy Teeth-Healthy Body .
Your dental hygienist is not a dentist but she can certainly be called a preventive dental specialist. Not only is she qualified to perform oral hygiene therapy and be a great source of knowledge but she is also your in-office oral guide and support person.
As your personal guide to dental disease prevention, your dental hygienist will be one of the best values you may ever get in the dental office. When all is said and done, her primary role is to help you save your teeth. As the preventive expert of the dental team, her role is to “save them so the dentist can fix them so you can smile and eat with them.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that no matter how good a dentist is at repair, he or she can’t fix them if you don’t have them.”