Feburuary 2, 2024 by riverteam
By Dr. Rebeca Zechmann, River Landing Dentistry
I am a dentist, and I love dentistry. Many are, understandably, anxious to go to the dentist. Here in front of you is a professional trying to explain why you should let them do microsurgery on your mouth while you are awake. My goal in this article is to articulate why I think dentistry is beautiful, challenging, fulfilling and ever so important to your longevity.
Here is why dentistry is unique. From a science standpoint, it’s complicated. You have teeth, the hardest structure in the body, and their supporting tissues (think gums, ligaments, bone). You have the muscles of mastication, including the masseter which is the strongest muscle in the body. You couple this with one of the most intricate cranial nerves, the trigeminal nerve, and other nerves that allow your teeth to delicately sense the slightest object between them down to micrometers! It’s a float like a butterfly, sting like a bee system. Let’s not leave out the temporomandibular joint that is one of the few synovial joints with an articular disc. From a physics standpoint, there are forces, class 3 levers, points of fulcrum, bevels, multiple ways to move teeth and balancing one’s bite. From an artistic standpoint there is the study of color, translucency, shape, symmetry, facial esthetics, and photography. From a health standpoint…there is not enough room here. In brief, consider the association between periodontal disease and heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s, and how gum disease is an inflammatory disease. Not to mention TMJ disorder and how this affects the cervical neck and posture. Even more impactful can be the screening and treatment of sleep apnea in adults and children and airway management. Finally, digestion begins in the mouth and the mouth is the gateway to the body.
Why did you nerd out about dentistry Dr. Z you may ask? Because dentistry is the profession that marries science and healthcare with art. And, because it’s important to your overall health. To be blunt, studies show that tooth loss is associated with a 17% higher risk of death.
I recently read Outlive, by Peter Attia, and he speaks about longevity and health span. I couldn’t help but think about how important the preservation of our oral function is to our health span and how our oral health relates to our overall health.
Single tooth dentistry is like playing whack-a-mole. It’s reactive. It will always have a place in dentistry as teeth do eventually break and need fixing or replacing just like knees and hips. Whereas whole mouth dentistry is about being preventative to protect your teeth, your gums, and the function of the entire system to increase your longevity. It’s also about replacing missing teeth to keep the system functioning optimally. Whole mouth dentistry has the obvious focus on cavities and gum disease, but it has a large focus on function and occlusion, or the way our teeth come together and generate bite force. I often tell patients there are three things that can affect teeth: cavities, gum disease, and functional disease. Functional disease is tooth on tooth damage. When functional disease is caught early, tooth wear, fracture and tooth loss can be prevented with the use of occlusal night guards, botox, orthodontics, and/or the treatment of sleep apnea depending on the individual. Fortunately, even if functional disease is caught later, the teeth can still be restored. Usually, advanced functional disease will require a full-mouth restoration. This process is not the one-off fix of single tooth dentistry but involves much planning and often the help of other specialists within the dental community. The pictures show before and after photos of full mouth restorations of functional disease in our occlusion-based practice. At River Landing Dentistry, it is our vision to positively influence people by providing compassionate dental care, and I hope your teeth will always float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.