Patients, from my experience, often think of cosmetic dentistry and the health of their mouth as two mutually exclusive things. Their primary focus is mainly about enhancing the appearance of their “pearly whites”. Sometimes there is a disregard or a total unawareness of the importance of improving their health. What if we could “marry” cosmetic dentistry to the health and well-being of your mouth and body?
In the first instance, it is worth considering whether there is even a relationship between the effect of cosmetic dentistry and the health of your mouth. It turns out that our mouths are, in fact, one of the most sensitive parts of the body. The slightest change to your teeth can have a profound impact on your health! For those of you who need further convincing, read my previous blog on how your mouth affects your posture.
To recommend any cosmetic procedure without a clear understanding of the impact it will have on my patient’s body is akin to building a house on an unstable foundation. It is bit like patching up the cracks in a home for several years only to find that your house eventually collapses into a sinkhole! For those of you unfamiliar with damage a sinkhole can actually do to a house, check out what happened to this home-owner in Florida:
So what problems can occur long term if the fundamentals of a “good foundation” are not considered? A person with worn teeth may continue to wear them down even after they are restored, a poor dental bite may not be addressed, or patients become over-reliant on dental “night guards”. What about the opportunity missed in actually fixing many underlying medical problems that have a dental origin?
Sleep apnea, jaw pain, chronic sinusitis, chronic mouth breathing, tinnitus and reflux are just some of the many conditions that can be treated when it is found to have a dental cause!
The only way to consistently offer patients the ideal cosmetic dental solutions every time is to ask these three questions:
- General observations: What is the rest of the body telling me about their health?
- Current medical issues: What impact do the patient’s current medical problems have on their mouth? Will it influence what cosmetic procedures are offered?
- Medical–dental connection: Is the patient currently suffering with a medical problem that has a dental cause? Can the medical problem be solved dentally?
How many medically-related conditions have a dental connection? Far more than I ever imagined since I graduated. Some health care professionals even estimate that 60 – 70% of all medical problems have a dental cause or contribution.
I will illustrate the Model above (name) by using a real life example of one of my patients whom we shall call “Sandip”. Sandip is unhappy with his smile and he mentions that his “bite” does not feel right. Here is how the 3 step model was applied:
The patient came in for a cosmetic consultation but we were also able to restore his chewing ability, relieve his jaw pain and eliminate his headaches during the process!
As this example illustrates, if enough time is spent to “join the dots” it will immediately become clear that many of our patients would benefit from taking a more holistic approach to cosmetic dentistry.
It is my hope that the way forwards in cosmetic dentistry is to embrace the health as well as the beauty! On this point, the words of the 19th century Earl of Beaconsfield, still hold true:
“The essence of education is the education of the body. Beauty and health are the chief sources of happiness.”