I will never forget the moment I realized that a mouth is connected to a body. It was at the 2014 St. Louis meeting of the American Academy for Oral and Systemic Health (AAOSH.) I heard Drs. Bale and Doneen speaking on the contribution of periodontal pathogens to endothelial dysfunction, Dr. Dave Singh speaking about remodeling the upper airway using biomimetic oral appliances to improve sleep and breathing, Dr. Tom Nabors speaking about the oral contribution to our systemic inflammatory burden, and so much more. It was as if a light went on. My practice would forever be changed.
I started to see the mouth differently. I knew I needed to disrupt biofilm better, improve functional spaces (spaces for the tongue, space for air to flow), and help reduce the body’s inflammatory burden. Although we spend about 75% of our healthcare dollars fighting chronic inflammatory diseases like diabetes and heart disease, 70% of us will still die from them.
I decided the biggest impact that I could make, as a dentist, in my busy practice, was to start with the three big opportunities that we have in dentistry to reduce the whole-body inflammatory burden- periodontal disease, endodontic disease, and obstructive sleep apnea. I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I enlisted my team, we utilized amazing technology, and we started to help our patients mitigate their risk of ill health.
Guided biofilm therapy (GBT)- We disrupt the biofilm using a spray of water and erythritol. The advantage of GBT is that it gets into hard-to-access areas (think implant threads), is gentle on the tissues, is fast, and is easy on the hygienists as it is faster and less wearing on the wrists.
Phase contrast microscope- 4s and 5s, deep pockets, that doesn’t mean much for most patients, but having a bit of plaque on a slide revealing bacteria swimming across the large monitor screen makes them say, when can we start getting rid of them?
Ozonated water- A 30-second pre-rinse with ozonated water sets the tone for our patients that we care about their health and the spread of disease. We also use it to irrigate periodontal abscesses and surgical sites.
3D imaging- We know that S. viridans found in most cardiac blood clots originate in periapical lesions. Cone beam technology allows us to find these lesions better than ever. Of course, 3D imaging also helps us find head and neck pathologies and screen for airway issues.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Home sleep tests (HST)- Technology is evolving the world of home sleep testing at a very rapid rate. Inexpensive, easy-to-wear units allow us to screen all our patients, especially our high-risk patients like bruxers, snorers, TMD patients, and patients that exhibit signs and symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing.
Oral appliances- Myofunctional appliances have been around since the 60s. These help pediatric patients develop more fully, which can help reduce the chances of having sleep-disordered breathing. Adults can be helped by using biomimetic devices to remodel the airway.
These are just some of the technologies that have allowed my practice to take care of patients in a more comprehensive way. By seeing more, by looking beyond the teeth, the demand for our services has grown. Patients want to be healthier, but we only see what we are looking for. Connecting the dots between oral and systemic health for our patients has had a huge effect on our practice’s reputation. Patients view us as smart, caring, and progressive.
According to Google, the top 10 words our patients mention in our reviews are cleaning, feel, informative, front desk, happy, health, comfortable, technology, exam, and ceiling (yes, we have TVs on the ceiling.)
I like the quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” But when it comes to linking the mouth to the body, I say, “Everybody knows how much you care when they know how much you know.”
Technology gets noticed, and so will your passion.
About Dr. Czubiak…
Dr. Mike Czubiak is a general dentist, author, and podcaster. He graduated from UCLA and created a complete health practice in Camarillo, California. He wrote the book Hygiene Superstar to illuminate the connection between oral health and overall health. He loves talking about inflammation reduction, airway, culture, and leadership. He can be heard hosting 3 podcasts- Uncomfortable Dental Conversations, Hygiene Superstar, and the Camarillo Smiles Dental Podcast.