Dental check-ups on the frontline of complete healthcare

With our mouths a source of disease-triggering inflammation, the latest approach to healthcare makes dental appointments more important then ever to our wellbeing, says Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care

Future dental appointments will be awash with tips and support about our diet, lifestyle habits, sleep, breathing and emotional wellbeing
Future dental appointments will be awash with tips and support about our diet, lifestyle habits, sleep, breathing and emotional wellbeing Future dental appointments will be awash with tips and support about our diet, lifestyle habits, sleep, breathing and emotional wellbeing

DENTISTS are no longer the shunned weird cousins at the medics' wedding, who are relegated to the outermost table nestled beside the toilets. We are on the verge of, dare I say it, not merely acceptance but even welcoming glances from the medical fraternity.

Dentists are sashaying through the wedding tables en route to the top table, proffering a knowing nod to the cardiologists (dental infections are associated with the formation of heart attack, inducing blood clots), a confident wink towards the neurologists (studies link gum disease inflammation with the progression of dementia and strokes), a humble wave to the endocrinologists (diabetics are more likely to have gum disease, and the more severe the gum disease the more out of control blood sugar levels become), an assured smile for the obstetricians and gynaecologists (gum disease and tooth abscesses are significantly associated with premature births) and an amiable handshake for oncologists (research has demonstrated strong associations between oral bacteria and the risk of pancreatic and breast cancers).

Medicine has come a long way from beliefs that diseases are caused by the supernatural; there was a time when diseases were blamed on a malevolent spell cast by one’s enemy, a visitation from an unsociable demon or an offended god who pitched a stone, a worm or a dart into the casualty’s body and soul.

From the beginnings of crude anatomical observations made by amateur physicians, the body was subsequently dismembered into the smallest of specialities to study in-depth and develop predictable treatments and surgical strategies.

Now the body is undergoing a massive unification which brings patients into the era where physicians not only treat disease symptoms like high blood pressure, out-of-control blood sugars, hormone imbalances and pains, but also address the underlying causes of the problems. Out with the concept of 'a pill for any ill' and in with health-inducing and disease prevention healthcare.

Because the mouth is one source of disease-triggering inflammation, and dentists tend to spend more time with patients due to the nature of the work, dentists are at the forefront of this fresh treatment approach of complete medicine and dentistry.

Future dental appointments will be awash with diet, lifestyle habits, sleep, breathing, and emotional wellbeing support and advice, alongside traditional dental treatments to eliminate mouth infections.


"I DON'T have loads of patients with big wide smiles and straight, perfectly formed teeth sitting in my chair complaining of similar problems to what you're experiencing (face and neck pains, headaches, tinnitus and jaw clicking), but I do see many, many people with narrow smiles, crowded and misshapen teeth whose lives are carpeted by all manner of teeth, head and neck aches and pains."

This was me, last week speaking with another downtrodden patient who just wanted to get on with her life without pain.

I am a big believer in form follows function. Take the nose, a marvellous creation perfectly developed for its intended use, from its macro design for air capture down to each cell being impeccably placed and structured to carry out its intended respiratory function.

A nose hasn't just happened to exist by chance; none of the body has. When a nose is artificially made too small by man, the owner of said nose is quick to complain of the unpleasant oxygen-starving effects on the rest of their body.

The mouth is no different. It's meant to be a certain shape with a lower jaw sitting in a neutral position allowing our head to balance handsomely on our shoulders.

The teeth aren't randomly shaped either, they are tooth-shaped and designed to fit together intimately. There are over 60 muscles in the head and neck, all with a specific purpose and each one wants to live in a state of balance. Muscle imbalance means pain.

It's not a whole bunch of random acts that creates a face either, nor is it solely our genetics that gives us our northern Irish bakes. From the very first instance we pop into the world our facial musculature is being conditioned.

The act of breastfeeding not only strengthens our lips and mouth muscles but also develops a good tongue-swallowing pattern and correct breathing habits.

Strong face muscles, good tongue swallowing movements, good nutrition, and unimpeded breathing grow our face and our jaws to their maximum genetic capacity.

This in turn creates enough room to have evenly set-up straight teeth and big broad smiles. The muscles and nerves of our head are then able to sit in a position of exquisite balance and happily go about their business pain-free.

:: Lucy Stock is principal dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast.