An Ounce of Dental Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Part 2

By Vatsal Suthar

“I used to have good teeth when I was a kid. But now that I am older, they are falling apart."

We see people all the time that come to see us after years of not seeing a dentist and hear that statement. More than likely, they had parents care enough about them and their teeth, taking them regularly to the dentist. With regular maintenance, exams, and instruction to keep things healthy, these people had relatively trouble-free dental health.

After they became adults, perhaps they didn't have that authority figure watching out for them. They went off to school, the military, or started working in their 20s. Good oral hygiene habits took a backseat to all the new responsibilities and adventures. One missed dental check-up led to two and three until eventually a couple years went by. Sometimes decades.

Only a broken tooth or pain at night made them think of the dentist. Getting older made it seem like their teeth got worse. However, it was the lack of excellent oral hygiene and no check-ups that led to hidden conditions getting worse. It is a complete myth that teeth get worse with age on their own. How else do we have hundreds of patients over 50 that don't have a denture?

“Why do you need my medical history and medicine list? I'm just here for a cleaning."

A part of any medical office is to fill out paperwork and consent forms. Whether it is getting a physical from your general physician or completing your eye exam, filling out a thorough past health history ensures your health care provider can safely treat you. When people come in for their hygiene visit at the dental office, a health history and complete medicine list helps your hygienist and dentist determine many things.

Past surgeries to your heart or bone joints determines if you need to take antibiotics prior to dental treatment. Females that are pregnant affects how we take x-rays, what numbing medicine to use, and how to plan completing dental treatment that's safest for mother and baby. People with diabetes can start having gum disease. Those with gum disease can develop diabetes.

Most medicines prescribed in America reduce the quantity or quality of your saliva. This is important because God gave us saliva to help fight off cavities and gum disease. All types of medicine can decrease the amount or quality of spit that helps your mouth stay healthy. It is a complete myth to think that your mouth and teeth work independently from the rest of your body.

“I've worn my denture for many years. I have no reason to see the dentist."

In one of the wealthiest nations in the world, it's amazing that there so many Americans missing teeth. 63 percent of adults are missing at least one tooth (not including wisdom teeth) and 10 percent of American adults are missing all their teeth. That's over 33 million people that have no teeth to help them chew, speak or smile properly.

Based on a survey of experienced denture wearers in America, it was reported that nearly 80 percent were unhappy with how their own dentures fit, felt, and looked. This means that patients, not dentists, deemed their denture inadequate. The jaw bone and gum wither away over time once teeth are gone. Do you think a person's mouth changes in the years (sometimes decades) that a person wears that same denture? Absolutely!

It is a myth to think you're done with all dental appointments once you get a complete denture. A yearly exam is ideal to: check gum health, perform oral cancer screen, and update x-rays to check jaw bone, joint and sinus health. The denture itself is inspected for cracks, fractures, excessive wear and is professionally cleaned.

“My gums always bleed. That is normal for me."

In good systems, there are internal warning signals in place to catch danger early. Our US Interstate Highways are full of warning signs for speed limits, curves, construction zones and even upcoming slowdowns for checkpoints or accidents. We all rely on a meteorologist's information to prepare for rain, cold weather, or severe conditions like hail, hurricanes, and floods.

Our body has the most built-in systems in the world that warn us when things aren't right. There can be swelling, pain, fever or bleeding when there is a problem. If you were washing your hands and blood was dripping from the fingernails, would that concern you? What if the next time you shampooed your hair, blood went down your face? Anyone with bleeding hands or a head would at least search online for this on the way to a medical facility! So, then, why are bleeding gums “normal" to some of the patients I meet?

Bleeding from gums is unhealthy and is the first indication that something is wrong. Your bleeding gums are trying to warn you that you have gingivitis which is early gum disease. It is a myth to think that bleeding gums are normal. Don't ignore your body's warning signs because it's designed to prevent bigger problems for you.


Vatsal Suthar is a private practice general dentist in Columbia, SC aiming to increase dental awareness for the South Asian Community.