The Parts Have Become a Whole

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It is common knowledge in science and medicine that it takes twenty to twenty-five years for practical application to catch up with scientific discovery. Before the 1990’s it became well-known that there is an oral-systemic link; that which is going on in the mouth is an indication of what is going on in the whole body. Studies now prove that:
• The same bacteria that is at the root of periodontal disease has also been found in the specific areas effected in those with heart disease.
• Symptoms of diabetes show up in the mouth.
• Inflation is the common cause of all that ails the body.

The list continues.

While the science has continually been proving the connection for well over 25 years, the practical application of the science has been lagging…until now!

As it is with most scientific discoveries, it takes public opinion or demographic trends for it to really catch on. Just like the Golden Age of Dentistry when technology converged with The Baby Boomer Generation reaching the age where they wanted to look good and had the money to spend on it, another such convergence of science and demographics is underway.

With the Baby Boomers turning 65 years old at the rate of 10,000 per day in the United States alone, the consciousness of America is shifting from just aesthetics to the health and wellness of the whole person. Yes, it is great to look good, but genuinely feeling good is more than self-esteem and the reflection in the mirror.

As Baby Boomers age, their concern about total health is increasing. In a recent study by the University of Massachusetts at Boston, 78% of patients surveyed viewed oral health as part of their over all health and want their dentist to address whole health issues. Ironically, these same patients said that only 51% of dentists are even addressing the correlation between what is going on in the patient’s mouth and what is going on with his or her over-all health. Patients are getting it. Are we?

For example, dentistry has traditionally treated periodontal disease only after there is physical damage, ie. pocketing, bleeding, bone loss. That is the equivalent of the physician telling a stage 1 cancer patient that they are going to “watch it” until there is physical damage or destruction before they treat the cancer. That would be crazy. But that is exactly what dentistry has done for decades: “Wait, watch and see.”

The shift to the 4th Generation of Dental Care tells us that periodontal disease is first and foremost about biology, not just anatomy. The disease can be diagnosed and treated early, before if causes physical damage. And that is the right thing to do for overall health and the right thing to do for the patient.

Dentistry is uniquely positioned to address the thing that is on most people’s minds today: “How can I STAY healthy so I don’t have to try to GET healthy?” When you combine that consumer trend with the science available today AND the fact that there is no other healthcare provider that patients visit more often than the dentist, you have a very powerful combination for a very bright future in dentistry.

4th Generation Patients want a practitioner who will take the latest science and address the health of the “whole” body, as well as remember that there is a person attached to the teeth, not just a body attached to the teeth.

To take advantage of the 4th Generation of Dental Care, ask yourself:

1. What I am doing to address the connection between what is going on in my patients’ mouths and what is going on with their over-all health?
2. What am I doing to diagnose and treat disease at its earliest stages instead of waiting until there is physical damage before taking action to treat disease?
3. What am I doing to really discover my patients’ priorities and preferences so that I can provide a plan that fits them as an individual?

4th Generation Dental Care is about the whole: the whole body AND the whole person. The science now exists that is allowing us to address whole health issues. Patient preferences have evolved to the point that they want a practitioner who will address what the patient needs AND wants – a practitioner who will treat the patient like a person, not a tooth!

Welcome to the 4th Generation of Dental Care.

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