Dentistry field emphasizes the importance of clean, healthy mouths
by Kristin Pedicini
Whether you’re a forgetful flosser or a self-proclaimed professional tooth-brusher, oral hygiene is something that affects everyone.
Dr. Jeff Weller of Weller Dental and Whitening Centers said it’s not just about flossing each day, but also about being sure you’re flossing correctly.
“Flossing is probably one of the most important things to do,” Weller said. “There’s stuff that sits between your teeth that can deteriorate tissue and teeth.”
Oftentimes, patients skip flossing, because there’s no time in the morning, but Weller said it’s important to note that flossing can be done anywhere, anytime. He added that flossing should not just be a “one-two” move between the teeth either.
“We have our hygienists make sure the patients know how to properly floss—you wrap floss around the tooth and gum; it’s like using a squeegee around tooth,” Weller said.
Studies have shown people can live longer simply by flossing daily and visiting the dentist regularly, according to Dr. Peter Harnois of Hinsdale Dentistry.
Harnois said bacteria have been shown to travel from the mouth into the blood stream and infect and weaken the cardiovascular system and other major organs of the body. He said it is a bacterial biofilm that seeps through gum tissue and enters the body.
“[More than] six million bacteria live in the mouth,” Harnois said. “That’s more than anywhere in the body.”
One way to be sure the mouth is clean and healthy is by flossing daily—a task that about three-quarters of the general population fails to do, according to Harnois.
He said one of the biggest misconceptions is that patients think they don’t need to floss regularly.
“If your dentist doesn’t explain it, [patients] don’t understand the link between the bacteria in the mouth and the body if they don’t clean [the mouth] daily,” Harnois said.
Both doctors said regular visits to your dentist will not only keep your mouth clean and healthy, but will also give the dentists a chance to detect early warning signs.
Harnois said a trip to the dentist can go a long way.
“The fact is that dentists can be the initial step to total body health,” he said. “The mouth shows a lot of signs of systemic diseases. You can see signs of diabetes and high blood pressure.”
Research indicates that oral hygiene and the mouth’s overall health status is also directly connected to the well-being of the entire body.
Periodontist Dr. Paul Denemark of Denemark Periodontal Specialists said the industry has been aware of the direct correlation of oral health and good total body health for years. He added that many inflamed proteins found in the body can be generated by infections which started in the mouth.
“Patients with diabetes can have infections in the gums that can impact their diabetic condition,” Denemark said. “[And] our expectant mothers with poor gum health can also have an increased chance of pre-term low-birth-weight babies. So, we are constantly vigilant about great oral hygiene and staying consistent with check-ups and cleanings.”
Weller, who works solely with adult patients, said that he sees what has happened to the mouth over the years. He said early interventions are always better.
“[Working with adults] allows me to focus on things more comprehensively,” Weller said. “I look at the bite, wear and tear patterns. ... When we look more comprehensively, we’re able to prevent more problems.”
Hand-in-hand with preventing issues early on is being sure patients are comfortable during appointments. Harnois said the field has become much more minimally-invasive, making it a much better experience for the patients.
“It couldn’t be a better time to be a patient,” Harnois said. “Everything is geared toward the best possible result. Dentistry doesn’t have to be painful anymore.”
Harnois explained that the industry now has access to technologies such as the Velscope Oral Assessment System, which can find early warning signs of oral cancer. Dentists even have a laser treatment for cavities as well.
“[Dentistry] doesn’t have to be something to fear or be painful and uncomfortable,” Harnois said. “[Patients] just want to have a nice, healthy mouth, fresh breath and straight white teeth; and you can do that now without making it painful.”