Take Care of Your Teeth, Take Care of Your Heart
You don’t just need to have been a dental patient to know the importance of heart health and oral hygiene in the last few years. This new emphasis has garnered attention across the globe as something to be mindful of when discussing oral health options with your patients. Some people may be skeptical as to the overall health implications of their teeth versus their heart, but it’s our job to educate them and provide opportunities where this information can be presented in a non-threatening and positive manner. Some ways to do this include:
- Tell your patients about the vascular nature of their gums. This means that each time they brush, the bacteria on their teeth has a chance of entering their bloodstream, and thus accumulating as plaque in their arteries. Obviously, this shouldn’t be a scare tactic as much as an educational one, but the facts as presented matter more than ever.
- Ensure your patients that not brushing your teeth once or twice isn’t a death sentence. Maybe they stayed out too late, or overtime really took them over their bedtime. Encourage consistency through practice rather than “one-for-one” moments, where each loss seems like a game changer. As long as your patients understand the importance of that consistence, they aren’t going to need to worry about long term problems.
If you have patients that are known to be diabetic, encourage a tactful discussion with them about the potential dangers they face when neglecting their oral care as diabetics are known to have many issues specific to this lack of care:
- A higher incidence rate of gum disease, due to lack of blood supply to the gums in tandem with poor hygienic practices.
- Having a consistently high blood sugar level will increase the chances of having a dry mouth, where bacteria can form much more rapidly.
- The same rise in blood sugar also affects the tissue that hold the teeth and gums together, leading to higher incidence rates of gum loosening or receding through inflammation and periodontal disease.
If talking with your diabetic patients causes discomfort, create an informational pamphlet that is unobtrusive in tone and educational. You can even have your hygienists recommend it to all new patients, and discuss the possibility with your old ones. By getting the information out there, you are doing your job as an educator of public health; where you can focus on retaining hygienic standards throughout the many years of person’s entire life.
The threats to cardiovascular health and oral hygiene are now well recognized in the health industry, and there is no better time to educate due to the surplus of information and studies that show us this. As dental practitioners, our duty to educate and inform outweighs any profit benefit.