While most traditional dentists focus on treating isolated dental problems, total oral health doctors look at patients' health in its entirety. Traditional dentists often only treat patients as passive recipients of care — that is, they do not explain what sort of "healthy mouth baseline" they should be working towards or how to get there. In contrast, total oral health doctors understand that successful relationships with their patients must be collaborative and involve some degree of patient education.
Total oral health dentistry is a dynamic process to be maintained. Annual wellness visits are necessary to get the best results. During these visits, our team members work closely with the patient to best understand their concerns while also identifying potential risk areas, particularly when it comes to inflammation. We will check blood pressure, conduct an oral cancer screening, and ask about sleep to consider all possible factors.
Total oral health dentistry is a collaborative effort between the patient and the doctor, meaning the patient must also take an active role in their care. Part of this is being forthcoming about their medical history and pre-existing conditions. As oral health and heart health exist in correlation, it is only natural for patients with heart conditions to require adjustments to their dental care.
Patients with heart conditions are often on medications or have other vulnerabilities that may cause complications during dental procedures. All of these factors can negatively affect the dental treatment process, potentially causing further heart problems or other medical emergencies. Even if a patient experiences an emergency for an unrelated reason, our team will only be able to provide optimal care if we know the full extent of an individual’s unique medical history and pre-existing conditions. Otherwise, there is a risk of further aggravating the situation.
Although research on the relationship between heart health and oral health is continuing, that the two are correlated in some way. For instance, studies show that periodontitis is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Patients with poor dental health are also at higher risk for developing a bacterial infection in the bloodstream, which can affect the heart valves. Additionally, there is a relationship between tooth loss patterns and coronary artery disease.
To elaborate, though there is still not enough evidence to determine a causal relationship between the two, studies show that patients with periodontitis have a two to three times higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or another serious cardiovascular event. Furthermore, the mouth acts as an entryway for bacteria to the body. As such, proper oral hygiene is necessary to keep infection at bay. Finally, at least one study found that middle-aged adults who lost at least two teeth had a 23% higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who did not.
Heart health is not only affected by the oral-systemic link. Several different systemic conditions may also affect (and be affected by) a patient’s heart health. Some of these conditions are also correlated with oral health. These involve diabetes, malnutrition, and obesity. If severe enough, such conditions may cause arrhythmias, affect the heart’s structure, or promote cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease. All are likely to increase demands on the heart.
Unmanaged diabetes can harm the eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart, teeth, and more. Those with diabetes have an increased risk of periodontitis (also known as gum disease), a condition with well-established links to heart disease. Furthermore, studies show that periodontitis increases the risk of heart disease and can exacerbate existing heart conditions. Malnutrition and obesity can similarly aggravate periodontitis, leading to a domino effect.
Making annual wellness visits with your total oral health dentistry doctor is key, as there are certain risk factors that you may not be able to assess on your own. Still, there are many preventive measures you can take at home. Brush at least twice a day using proper technique, and floss at least once daily. Swish with a fluoride-enriched mouthwash, and try to keep a healthy diet. Dental Design Studio of Gilbert may provide you with further advice based on your personal lifestyle and risk factors.
Many risk factors for gum disease are related to one’s lifestyle. These involve excessive alcohol use, tobacco use, and poor nutrition. Others include age, genetics, stress, medications, and teeth clenching. Everyone has their own unique risk profile. We can help you identify and treat yours.
Though experts have yet to find any definitive proof of a causal relationship between periodontitis and heart disease, there are correlations between the two. It is believed that this is due to the inflammation that accompanies periodontitis.
Traditional dentists tend to separate patients from their conditions, obfuscating the true extent of the health problems that may be found when utilizing a more comprehensive approach. The problem with this method is that it often prevents both patient and doctor from addressing the root cause. Total oral health doctors specialize in dentistry while keeping the patient’s entirety under consideration.
More often than not, patients lack the knowledge needed to make critical decisions about their care. Without having a basic understanding of their conditions or treatments, they may find it challenging to navigate the healthcare system without feeling lost or taken advantage of. Total health dentistry aims to empower patients to become active participants in their care, which allows them to have a better vision of where they want to be and how to get there.