Why does our oral health affect our overall health?

Why does our oral health affect our overall health?

Most of us have heard the phrase “the eyes are the window to the soul.”  By analogy, when it comes to the relationship between our oral cavity and the rest of our body, the oral cavity can be thought of as the “window” as well.

Though this example is abstract, it is important for all of us to see, in concrete terms, that our oral health is an integral part of our systemic health.  This notion is certainly intuitive and logical, however, prevailing notions up until fairly recently have worked to psychologically separate our dental and systemic health.  We think of dental decay and gingival disease as health concerns confined merely to our teeth and the gums which surround them.  However, did you know that oral health affects sleeping, breathing, respiration, heart health and even diabetes status? 

This fact may be surprising—but research conducted over the past several decades definitively points to a link between oral and overall health.  To illustrate just one example, let’s talk about diabetes.  

Diabetes is a condition in which our bodies are unable to use blood sugar properly.  As a result, blood sugar builds to such high levels that our bodies release inflammatory chemicals.  This affects our gum health because, as we discussed in a recent post, inflammation is what eventually causes breakdown of the bone supporting our teeth.

Importantly, the link between diabetes and our oral health is a two-way street.  Just as inflammation from diabetes adversely affects periodontal health, inflammation from the gums affects diabetes status.  This is because poor gum health causes inflammatory chemicals to increase throughout our entire blood stream.  These chemicals further damage the ability of cells to properly take up sugar from the blood, thus making diabetes worse. 

Our mouths are involved in many functions—speaking, breathing, chewing and digesting food, and of course, smiling!  Therefore, it’s only natural to expect that our oral cavities are integral to the health of many organ systems.  So the next time your dentist says “open wide!”, be assured that he or she is checking up on far more than just whether or not you have cavities.  For more information on all topics oral health, be sure to visit us at www.watergatedental.com.  Thank you for reading!

 

New Technology at Watergate Dental

New Technology at Watergate Dental

The doctors and staff at Watergate Dental are so pleased to offer YOU, our patients, CEREC technology.  In this post, we will explain why this makes delivery of your oral healthcare faster, more accurate, and much more convenient. 

If you have ever had a dental crown or bridge placed, you understand that there are several visits to the dentist involved.  During the first visit, your dentist prepares the tooth to receive a crown.  Then, a gooey mold of your tooth is taken, sent to the lab, and the crown is returned several weeks later for you to receive.  In the meantime, you are given a short-term crown to wear.  Due to the temporary nature of the crown, these will often come out during the interim period, necessitating yet another visit to your dentist for re-cementing.

Furthermore, occasionally a lab will send back a crown that, for one reason or another, does not fit satisfactorily.  This means yet another visit several weeks later to try-in another crown from the lab.  As you can imagine, all these extra visits can add up quickly and take you away from other responsibilities such as work and family. 

What if we told you that there was technology available that would allow your dentist to prepare your tooth, scan it, and create the final crown all in ONE visit?  Well, welcome to the world of CEREC technology!  CEREC is a system that allows your dentist to virtually scan your prepared tooth and send that scan to a machine within the office.  That machine then creates a final crown with stunning precision.  Yes—this means no more gooey molds, no more temporary crowns, fewer visits to the dentist, and less overall time in the dental chair! 

The best thing about CEREC, aside from increased convenience for our patients, is the stunning accuracy and predictability of the scanning and crown-making technologies.  This means less time adjusting, re-shaping, and re-fitting crowns in the dental chair.  It also means longer lasting restorations with less complications and fewer problems down the line.  Thank you for reading, and be sure to check out www.watergatedental.com for more information on all things oral health!

 

I am young and healthy.  Why am I being screened for oral cancer?

I am young and healthy. Why am I being screened for oral cancer?

During your last dental check-up you may have been told you were receiving a “routine oral cancer screening.”  If you’re young, healthy, and refrain from smoking and excessive alcohol intake, you might be wondering why your dentist is concerned about this disease.

It is true that oral cancer is associated with age, male gender, and habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake.  However, there is a new category of risk factors emerging at an alarming rate.  And unfortunately, this category is relevant to persons of all age groups.

Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).  It is thought that most sexually active men and women will at some point in their lives become infected with HPV.  Like the influenza (flu) virus, HPV has many strains.  While some strains are relatively harmless, several very common strains have strong links with cancers such as oral cancer and cervical cancer. 

Unfortunately, when cancer occurs in the oral cavity, it tends to occur in places that are difficult to see—for example, underneath the tongue.  Additionally, at your routine physical check-up, your physician is probably not screening for it.  Therefore, your dentist will likely look around your mouth to check for signs of pre-cancerous or cancerous tissue changes.  With frequent enough screening, such as every six months at your dental check-up, it is unlikely that oral cancer would go undetected for a significant period of time. 

The take-home message here is that when your dentist tells you they are screening for oral cancer, it should not raise alarm or panic.  It is merely a tool that your dentist is employing in response to increasing rates of oral cancer in the United States.  As with many cancers, early detection is key for good treatment outcomes. Continue to follow our blog at www.watergatedental.com.  Thank you for reading!

Welcome back, Dr. Keir!

Welcome back, Dr. Keir!

Dr. Victoria Keir with her grandfather, Dr. Hilt Tatum II, and her uncle, Dr. Hilt Tatum III.  This photo was taken courtesy of Mrs. Scarlett Tatum at the Advanced Dental Implant Institute AAID Maxicourse in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Victoria Keir with her grandfather, Dr. Hilt Tatum II, and her uncle, Dr. Hilt Tatum III.  This photo was taken courtesy of Mrs. Scarlett Tatum at the Advanced Dental Implant Institute AAID Maxicourse in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

 

Our newest associate, Dr. Victoria Keir, recently returned from her second session at the Advanced Dental Implant Institute in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  She is attending the American Academy of Implant Dentistry MaxiCourse Program and Clinical Residency in Implant Dentistry for the 2016-2017 academic year while continuing to practice at the Watergate in Washington, DC.  The program focuses on all surgical aspects of implant dentistry, from bone augmentation to tissue management to implant placement. 

The director of the program, Dr. Hilt Tatum, is a world-renown pioneer of modern implant dentistry and was one of the first dentists in the world to bring bone grafting into the field.  He is also credited as being the first dentist to perform the sinus lift procedure.    Dr. Donald Kreuzer was mentored directly by Dr. Tatum while completing his hospital-based surgical implant residency in Florida.  Dr. Tatum is still performing surgeries, innovating, and teaching—making this a truly invaluable experience for Dr. Keir.  Even more special is the fact that she is Dr. Tatum’s granddaughter. 

This training program will give Dr. Keir an immense and comprehensive knowledge base in implant dentistry.  In addition, the program will give her the training necessary to obtain a license in IV sedation, making it possible for Dr. Keir to make her patients completely comfortable during surgical or otherwise stressful dental procedures.  As a part of this program, Dr. Keir will be conducting research with Dr. Tatum and her classmates.  The results of this research will be prepared not only for presentation at the AAID conference, but also for publication. 

Dr. Keir is a recent graduate from Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine.  At the completion of her training with the Advanced Dental Implant Institute this year, she will be eligible for an Associate Fellowship from the American Academy of Implant Dentistry.  Inspired by her grandfather, her ultimate goal is to become a contributor to the field of Oral Implantology.  She is thrilled to be a member of the Watergate Dental Associates team, and looks forward to continuing her educational and professional journeys.