Time to Break the Barrier: Dentistry Falls Under a Medical Practice

Time to Break the Barrier: Dentistry Falls Under a Medical Practice

The first dental school was founded in the United States in 1840. Can you believe that? Since then, however, dentistry and medicine have been taught as — and viewed as — two separate professions. That artificial division is bad for the public’s health. It’s time to bring the mouth back into the body.*

Let’s get together in one linguistic tongue and realize a Doctor earns his or her title for a reason. When you go to see your primary care physician, you refer to them as Dr. {insert name here}, when go to the dentist, you also refer to them as Dr. {dentist’s name here}. So why is there a divide to who knows what, and who treats your overall health.

Dentistry used to only be able to focus on extracting decayed teeth and plugging cavities. Now, in modern times, dentists use methods for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. We implant teeth, pinpoint oral cancers, use 3-D imaging to reshape a jaw, and can treat some dental decay medically, without a drill.

Local dentists, far and wide, have discovered the innate connection between oral health and overall health. Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, has been linked to the development of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Pregnant women with periodontitis are more likely to develop pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious complication of pregnancy, and deliver low-birth-weight babies.

For ages and ages, people have known that a lot of health issues start in the mouth. Here’s what an integrated dental health/primary care visit might look like to a patient: When you go for a routine teeth cleaning, you would be cared for by a team of physicians, dentists, nurses, and physician and dental assistants. One or more of them would take your blood pressure, check your weight, update your medications, see if you are due for any preventive screenings or treatments, and clean your teeth. If you have an artificial heart valve or have previously had a heart infection, or you are taking a blood thinner, your clinicians will manage these conditions without multiple calls to referring doctors.

Poor oral health is more than a “tooth problem.” We use our mouth to eat, to breathe, and to speak. Oral pain results in lost time from school and work and lowered self-esteem. Inflammation in the gums and mouth may help set the stage for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic conditions.

Bottom line is listen to your dentist. Great oral care means great health.


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