Taking care of your oral health is much more than a routine clean. It’s simple. You attend your appointment with the Hygienist, lay back, have your teeth cleaned, scraped, polished and told “we’ll see you again in 6 months”.
As an industry, collectively we need to move away from this ‘scale and polish’ mindset. We as dental Hygienists and Therapists spend 3 years at university studying as well as continuing our development in all aspects of dentistry ultimately, allowing for the updating of skills and knowledge to pass onto our patients in order to prevent deterioration of the supportive structures in the mouth; the foundations, scaffolding and all the bits in between – your gums.
Addressing your home care is the imperative aspect of your appointment, as ultimately this can be the difference in having a reversible condition such as gingivitis or an irreversible condition such as periodontitis, or gum disease. Not only for your oral health but your general health and wellbeing.
In depth, long term research studies have confirmed that there is a positive link between periodontitis and heart disease. Bacteria found in plaque can enter the bloodstream and into the vessels surrounding the heart, resulting in fatty deposits. Consequently, these deposits may cause heart attacks and strokes. A study conducted in (2018) found evidence of oral bacteria DNA in cardiac tissue in those subjects who presented with periodontitis, but whether there is a causal effect is still to be determined. Ultimately, reducing bacteria within the mouth by having a rigid home care routine could well determine your future health or existing heart condition.
Following on from this, there has also been a link identified between periodontitis and diabetes. It has been made apparent that patients with periodontitis can find it harder to control their diabetic levels and could increase the risk of complications within the heart and kidneys.
There is also ongoing research that shows the correlation between periodontitis and rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
We are a generation of professionals who don’t just see our patients as ‘a mouth’ with potential problems to fix. We see our patients as a whole person, treating you holistically from your mouth to your heart to your gut. With regular dental examinations and hygiene visits, it may be more than just your teeth you’d be looking after.