Wellness Dentistry at the Tipping Point

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Inflammation, rather than bacteria, has been identified as the common link between periodontal disease, tooth decay, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many others. This new understanding encourages dentists to take more of a whole person approach to their preventive dental health and wellness efforts.

A significant change is occurring in wellness dentistry, according to Dr. Ken Southward, a general dentist in Ontario, Canada. Dentists used to believe that both periodontal breakdown and tooth decay were caused by bacteria, so preventive efforts focused on reducing oral bacteria. With this mindset, dental diseases were essentially considered in isolation of other systemic diseases. Dental researchers like Dr. T. Sorsa in Finland and Dr. L. Golub in United States are now discovering that it is the body’s own immune system causing the breakdown through a process of uncontrolled inflammation. This new paradigm directly links dental disease to other inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and many others.

Dentistry’s long term, recurring relationships with people provides an ideal education and support environment for people seeking more responsibility for their own health and wellness. Creative web sites such as Dr. Southward’s http://www.dentalhealth.ca are now reaching out to a broader community of wellness interested people, regardless of location. Blogging and online information are cornerstones of this educational effort.

Many people feel they are dentally healthy when they are free of treatable dental disease. Wellness dentistry goes beyond this disease-free need. It offers a preferred future based on ones values. Offering clients what they value more than what they need, however, is not new to dentistry. Tooth whitening, porcelain veneers and adult orthodontics are all cosmetic services designed to provide people with services they value but do not necessarily need.

Research from the areas of pathology, pharmaceuticals, advanced nutrition and psychology will increasingly converge with technology. Wellness oriented dental teams will learn to shorten the gap between research and application both on an individual and community-wide basis. Wellness tools to offer the latest in education and support are emerging today.

A different dental disease paradigm based on inflammation links oral health to systemic health. This understanding liberates dentistry to move towards a wellness based model of care and support. The dental profession is at the tipping point or the dawn of a new era in wellness dentistry.

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Ken Southward

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