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Oral health goes far beyond tooth decay and a sparkling smile. Within the last decade, the medical field has taken on a more holistic approach to the connection between oral health and links to a variety of conditions affecting the body at large. Dr. Jerry Cheung, of Bright Smile Dental, advises that dentists can be the first line of defense when it comes to assisting in prevention and early detection of serious, life-threatening conditions affecting the entire body; sleep apnea, a condition affecting 22 million Americans, is one that can be identified through a routine dental exam.
Dr. Cheung comments, “I have long held the belief that as a dentist, I have unique insight into larger issues impacting patients. Teeth don’t walk through the door on their own. There is a whole person attached and it is my job to counsel that person for better overall health and well-being.”
Specifically, he adds, “Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a major complaint among many patients who come to see me. Generally, dentists will attribute this to stress or issues with a bite, however, I have found that some of my patients have actually suffered from sleep apnea. In some cases, the grinding or gnashing of the teeth is actually caused by obstructed airways during sleep. This, of course is a serious health issue, and we have been able to work through this through further referrals to specialists, and in some cases, a simple dental appliance.”
With so many Americans suffering from sleep apnea, it is even more astounding that so many go undiagnosed. Identifying the issue can literally save lives as sleep apnea can cause the arteries to harden leading to serious heart issues, memory loss, and concentration issues. In most cases, those suffering with sleep apnea or restricted airways, wake up to breathe throughout the night. This causes unrest and can severely impact a patient’s quality of life.
“I think it is most important that we, in the dental field, educate our patients on how far reaching a good oral health routine can be when it comes to overall health. We need to ask the right questions and look for cues that our patients may not think of when coming in to get a routine exam.”
Dr. Cheung suggest that patients prepare for routine dental exams by providing a list of other health issues to cover with their dentist. In some cases, a dentist can examine the mouth, but also make further connections to other health issues so that the patient can work more effectively with outside specialists and their primary care physicians. In many cases, the issues can be resolved through treatments prescribed directly by the dentist.
For more information or to schedule an exam, visit http://www.brightsmilepowell.com/ or call 614.706.1836.