Oral Care: More Than Just Teeth

Image courtesy of adamr FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is a huge disconnect between your mouth and the rest of your body. People don’t realize that not caring for your mouth will have systemic effects. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to everything from pre-term, low birth weight babies, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Oral Cancer

How often do you go to your family doctor and have them look in your mouth? Yeah, thought so. Seeing a dentist or hygienst regularly is the only way to ensure you’re having a good oral exam. Though not the highlight of my career, I’ve referred three patients to an oral pathologist for cases I thought were oral cancer. I’m sad to say I was right all three times. Only one of the three was a smoker too. One was an older lady who mentioned she had a cold core that just wouldn’t heal, though I can see how she thought it may be a cold sore, I was sure she needed a second opinion. All her gardening in the hot sun without protection was likely the cause. The third was an older lady from Greece whose son did all the translating. When he mentioned she was having trouble swallowing, I pressed the issue and did an introral and extraoral exam, something didn’t feel right to me and it turns out she had a large tumor around her voicebox.

Periodontal Disease 

Periodontal disease can range from gingivitis to sever disease (teeth falling out). I see it all. I have had patients with disease so bad their teeth have literally fallen out in my office doing an exam. It amazes me the pain people will go through before seeking professional help. If you’re at the stage of teeth starting to become mobile, your attachment tissues and bone have been affected. If you have an infection that sever in your mouth it will get into your blood stream…all blood pumps through your heart. Is this risk worth it?!

If you went to the bathroom and washed your hands in routine fashion and they bleed you would probably freak out, right? So why do so many people think bleeding gums from routine brushing and flossing is normal? Blood=problem.

I’m keeping it real here and 99.99999% of the population, me included, has a few trouble areas in their mouth and routine flossing or brushing may get a bit of bleeding. Bacteria sneaks its way into tiny nooks that get missed sometimes, we’re human. But if you’re getting bleeding every time you brush or floss, it’s an indication that there’s something going on or you’re doing it incorrectly. Most of the time bleeding is an indicator that the patient needs to change their technique and do it MORE often. Bleeding doesn’t mean stop.

Dentures Shouldn’t Be An Option

I hate hearing that people don’t care about their teeth because they will always have dentures as an option. No matter how much you may hate your teeth, YOUR teeth are always better than dentures. Ask anyone who wears them. They’re a pain in the ass. They need to be fit and adjusted often, can get infected underneath if not cared for properly, in the case of full dentures you loose so much of your ability to taste your food. Ask anyone who is in dentures if they would rather their real teeth and I’m sure they will all agree they would rather have natural teeth no matter how they may look.

Restorative dentistry has come a long way there are options beyond dentures for replacing missing teeth. Depending on how deep your pockets are you could get implants but when we’re talking about $3500-5000 per tooth not many people can afford a whole mouth!

Nothing is as good as you’re God given teeth. Take care of them and they should last a lifetime. It’s not rocket science. Eat well, brush and floss regularly and have regular dental exams and cleanings. If something isn’t working for you ask for help! If it’s something I can help with via e-mail I’d be glad to but you should see a dental professional regularly.

Do you have any crazy dental stories? 

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  1. I once met a girl (with a brand new iPad and iPhone and planning a big wedding) who was getting a tooth pulled because she didn’t want to pay the money over and above what her insurance covered, to do a proper fix.


  2. My mom has bad teeth and I feel sad to see her dealing with them now. Dental care is essential and nobody should put it off. It’s so expensive though and poor people can’t afford it. We were poor for many years and dental care was one of the things that got neglected. It’s also difficult for older folks to get implants right? The healing process doesn’t work as well when you’re older.

    • Catherine says:

      It depends on the person, if they have enough bone and are generally healthy there’s no reason why they couldn’t have one. It’s sad that dentistry is a neglected item but I do understand…here in Nova Scotia if you’re on social assistance you have basic coverage through the program which is great. I see a LOT of people down on their luck- financially, drug recovery etc.

  3. I have braces so brushing and flossing for me ends up being 3-4 X per day (or more depending). It is such a habit now that I don’t see a problem brushing in public at let’s say the mall (even though I hate shopping). I think more people should brush after they eat, because for me, I feel so much more confident and happy when I know I don’t have food eating away at my teeth or something stuck in them. I brushed before, but not as much because I would get dirty looks from people like I was gross or something. Now I just smile with my mouth full of toothpaste and go along my merry way.

  4. Great reminders, Catherine. In fact, I’m calling the dentist right away! You scared me, and I’ve been putting it off.

  5. We are both pretty nutty about our teeth so we floss and brush as we should and get regular check-ups and cleaning at the Dentist. There’s something special about having a nice white smile and healthy teeth. There are many other reasons related to our health like you point out as to why it’s important but it also builds self-esteem and encourages people to smile. I know many people who never visit the dentist because they don’t have benefits or simply can’t pay the remainder after the benefits company pays their portion. Just another reason to budget for oral care… even as a projected expense. Cheers!

  6. I have a crazy scary dental nightmare that keeps on haunting me, where ALL my teeth fall out when I´m eating breakfast.. seriously, when I wake up, I`m terrified and sometimes in tears because the nightmare was so real-like!

  7. The oral cancer screening is so important. My 64 yr old father in law had surgery in January of this year to remove a very large and aggressive cancerous tumour from the bottom of his mouth. The tumour was so invasive the surgeons had to remove all of his bottom teeth, his salivary glands, his gums and 90% of his tongue (his tongue was rebuilt so to speak by using tissue and skin from his leg). He finds he is getting the most empathetic and comforting care post op from his dentist. Ironically he was afraid to go to the dentist for years. This dentist is a specialist who he was referred to before his surgery and who will continue to care for him so long as he wants. But of all the specialists, surgeons, doctors, nurses, etc that he sees, he and my mother in law find the dentist the most helpful and the one who doesn’t rush thru the appointments.

    • That is so scary. I wish I could say I haven’t heard of this before but I have. The dentist has the most vested interest in his mouth/well being. I wish him well in his recovery.

  8. My life is a crazy dental story! I received radiation to my head when I was a kid and as a result had to have most of the teeth on one side of my mouth removed. The radiation messed up my jaw too and now it is vital for me to regularly brush and floss as I’m more susceptible to decay and other dental issues. You don’t know what you’re missing until they’re gone! I will do whatever I can to keep the teeth I have left!

    • That’s scary (and rare)- why did you need so much radiation? Are they checking your bone levels in your jaw regularly?

      • I had a brain tumor when I was a kid. And no, my bone levels in my jaw have not been checked regularly. Should they be?

        • If you’re having issues with your jaw I would think having a Panorex xray every few years would be ideal to make sure you’re not having more bone loss. I don’t know the whole story or your dental history though.

  9. I’m happy I met you! I’ve learned so much about dental hygiene! I don’t have any dental horror stories because my mother worked next to a dentist’s office – we went often. I wish I’d taken better care of my teeth throughout university, but now that I have insurance, I’m turning over a new leaf!

    • haah glad to have helped 😉 if you need any DDS recommendations in the maritimes let me know since I can probably find someone for you.

  10. Oral hygiene is so important. I want too smile and be proud of that smile! 🙂 It was interesting working in my dad’s office and seeing the people he helped. People have such fear of dentists, which I sort of get, but I have greater fear of my teeth rotting. I’m glad you’re sharing your knowledge and stories with us!

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Shannon. Sort of twisted but I love having a fearful patient come to me and having me (to me fair, us since I work with a great DDS) completely change their tune. I have 3 patients at work waiting for me to come back from mat leave before they’ll come into the office haha.

  11. My husband has had full dentures since age 29. He had a pretty severe calcium deficiency exacerbated by tons of steroids for severe eczema and asthma. His teeth started breaking off in high school… From things like pasta. So he’s actually someone who was thrilled to get dentures. Yeah, less taste but he has this thing about eating solids. Which, by the time of his surgery, he hadnt done for months. But for most people, it’s always better to try and save your teeth. Especially since, when you get dentures early in life, you need to get dental implants not too long after. We are currently saving up since they cost 12-25k. I guess we’ll get some estimates when we’re closer to that point.

    • Catherine says:

      Yes for sure, if you have medical conditions that’s a whole different kettle of fish. I’m talking about sheer neglect. Are you looking at implant placed dentures?

  12. The first time I had the lady dentist work on me she began massaging my neck. It felt good, but very weird. I didn’t have any idea of what was going on. Later someone told me that she was checking for growths. I’m glad to have been checked out, nothing found. However, I don’t know that i’d want her husband doing the same.

  13. I cringed through most of that story. lol! I once worked with a guy who hadn’t gone to the dentist in YEARS! And we HAD dental insurance! His teeth used to gross me out. I really hate nasty teeth, and have no idea how you guys deal with it when those people come into the office. Yuck! My dad was a dentist, so I think that’s why I know that taking care of your choppers is really important. I did have gum grafting done about 12 years ago. That sucked. 🙁 And I had a root canal last year, which also sucked. Especially because I don’t have insurance. I hope that never happens again!

    • Honestly, it’s the people with the Cadillac dental plans that don’t go! I hope you don’t need another root canal either!!

  14. I recently cracked off half my tooth while eating rock candy…damnit! I love that stuff, but I’ll have to seriously reconsider eating it again after the $500 crown bill I just paid.

    • Catherine says:

      $500 for a crown is great haha! Seriously crowns are like 900+ here! But yes, hard candy can cause serious damage- that and ice chewing.


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