Ask the Dentist: Psychology is playing catch-up with what dentists already know

EACH part of the body has a branch of medicine specifically designated to treat it; our even intangible thoughts are treated by psychiatrists.

The black sheep of the medical family has historically been the mouth. Strangely psychologically severed from our anatomical form, the oral cavity is an outcast, banished to the outer regions of the medical kingdom…

This disconnection was possibly partly the fault of the father of modern dentistry, Frenchman Pierre Fauchard, who in the 17th century aimed to rebrand dentistry into a specialist science in order to distance the discipline from quackery and barbers who had developed a fondness for extracting teeth.

An attempt in 1840 to heal the rupture between the mouth and body awkwardly failed, when the University of Maryland snubbed the request of Baltimore Dental College to join forces to create the first Dental University.

This brings us to the present today where we are wandering in a bizarre limbo land where dentists can use the term Dr, only as long as they don’t get above their station and thus mislead the public.

The dental regulators, the GDC, allow dentists to use ‘Dr’ as a courtesy title, providing they do not otherwise imply that they are qualified to carry out medical procedures. I must remember next week when I am carrying out all the different oral surgical procedures for my patients, that it is not ‘proper’ surgery…

Thankfully biology cannot be dented by emotional human whims and the mouth is not only definitely anatomically connected to the rest of the body, it is also one of the main gateways for all sorts of microorganisms to gain entry into our system and cause mayhem.

Some interesting recent research has discovered a trick for people wanting to leave hospital quicker after having a heart attack. It found that people with better oral hygiene had the shortest length of stay in hospital, whereas those who tended to neglect their gums endured more time convalescing.

Not only can you get out of hospital quicker by looking after your mouth, but you’re also two to three times less likely to have a heart attack by keeping gum disease at bay. The connections within the body are unquestionably real – human psychology is playing catch up.

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