Posts for tag: preventive care
As I write this article, a new school year is just getting underway. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have been telling me (ever since the 4th of July actually) that the summer is over. I always chuckle at that since for me summer usually lasts well into September, if not October, in terms of beautiful weather, etc. But then I must admit, I don’t have to factor in the back-to-school rush of shopping for school supplies and getting kids ready for those first days back in the classrooms.
To add one more thing to that “to do” list, I want to add getting your children to the dentist. In my experience that is often not the first thing that occurs to parents as they go down their check list. And it isn’t that I think “back to school check-ups” are a big deal–I don’t. What I think is a REALLY big deal is having your children seen regularly by the same dentist. And by regularly, I mean at least once per year and for most children twice a year (and there are some children who would benefit greatly from being seen even more often than that!)
There are two points I’d like to emphasize and explain from that previous paragraph. First, why do I stress the “same” dentist? And second, why do I feel strongly about the frequency of visits?
I believe in prevention. My greatest joy is seeing kids that I’ve watched grow up graduate from high school, and then perhaps college, and never have a cavity. And it doesn’t usually happen by accident. But it can, and often does, happen. In my experience it happens because the children’s parents are committed to good dental health and the dental personnel (dentist, hygienist, dental assistants) get to know the children, learn how to best work with them and motivate them, and serve as their “cheering squad”. In other words they form relationships with those children. And like most of us, children respond positively to that. Beyond what I believe is a HUGE aspect (i.e., building relationships), having the same dentist monitor growth and development and evaluate changes in tooth structure also provides a huge benefit for everyone.
I am often amazed when people transfer their care to a new dentist when that new dentist doesn’t want previous x-ray films. That history contained in those films is something I evaluate every time I see a patient. It helps me determine how often I need to take new films (potentially saving someone money and certainly x-ray exposure) and, even more importantly I believe, whether or not any dental disease present is active, progressing, or simply “old news”. We have patients in our practice that have had “beginning” decay on teeth for ten or more years. If it isn’t progressing, it almost always is “arrested”. That’s a term that dentists use to mean it has stopped and usually once that happens, it doesn’t ever progress. So people with arrested decay don’t need fillings, but without that history, those areas often look suspicious, and we dentists are trained to treat suspicious areas. So that’s another really important aspect of having a dental “home” where, if I can use the line from the TV show “Cheers”, “everyone knows your name” (and your mouth!)
Frequency of dental visits has been a subject of debate both within and outside of dentistry for many years. And the importance of “frequent” visits varies from child to child. Without getting into issues that pertain more to adults, for children the issues relate to susceptibility to decay (that is, do they get lots of cavities), growth and development, and helping them develop healthy dental homecare habits.
With children that have lots of decay, we want to be working with their parents as well as them, and we utilize a variety of strategies to help reduce and ultimately eliminate the number of problems (cavities). While we don’t always succeed, we improve things more often than not. The concerns about growth and development are somewhat more subtle but often have a large impact over the years. By watching how things change in your child’s mouth, we can suggest strategies to minimize problems and time referrals for braces, etc. when it is necessary. Sometimes timing is truly everything!
So what I’m suggesting here is that you use this time to schedule dental appointments for your children with us. We want to develop a long-term relationship with both you and your children, and we want you to feel good about asking us questions about your children’s mouths. We like kids and want to help them… and we hope they like us as well! And if that visit doesn’t happen until mid-September, that will still be OK. Then we can find out how your children like their new teachers!
This brief and effective jaw relaxer comes from our friend Deb May at YogaCare. If you find yourself carrying tension in your jaw, do this relaxer for immediate relief.
How to Relax Your Jaw in Two Minutes
With your tongue, touch each tooth, front & back, feeling where each tooth connects to the gum. Breathe deeply, stay aware and relaxed.
Use your tongue to massage the jaw hinge from the inside of your mouth. Take about 1 minute to do the left side of the mouth, then the right side, then rest your tongue at the bottom of your mouth.
Notice how it feels – your teeth slightly apart, the space at the roof of the mouth, tongue relaxed at the bottom of your mouth ... your jaw relaxed!
I was first introduced to yoga as a student at the University of Hawaii. After a long and stressful day in our student clinic, one of my dental hygiene classmates shared some poses with me. I immediately experienced help with the tension in my body, learned to relax my neck and shoulders and discovered a way to take some deep breaths between each patient.
I have been practicing yoga with Deb May of YogaCare since 2005. One of the greatest rewards of consistent practice, awareness, and intention has been the way yoga has helped me reduce stress and tension in my body and in my life.
Everyone carries tension in their body in different ways – sometimes it is in our neck, shoulders or jaw. Through yoga I have become more aware of the places tension resides in my body. Every time Deb would remind us to “relax your jaw” during a yoga pose, I found my jaw tightly clenched! This personal awareness planted the seed for what has grown into Kuttler Dental’s latest mission: To help the increasing number of people who deal with stress, jaw pain and teeth grinding.
As a dental hygienist, I see the dental effects of tooth wear every day. We have learned through studies that lifestyle changes are one of the most effective ways to address this. So I began with myself, and now want to spread the word!
Bill, Deb and I partnered to create an audio CD with a special focus on relaxation and breathing techniques to help reduce stress. You can learn ways to relax not only your jaw, but your whole way of being. We designed this CD to help everyone – it is geared toward beginners and even those who have never tried yoga. While there are two basic yoga practices on the disc, the rest of the tracks are focused on helping you to learn to relax, breathe deeply, and live freely.
If you are interested in our Relieve Stress for Dental Health CD, you can order here or give us a call at 563.583.6424. The cost is $16.00 (tax included). Shipping is an additional $2.00 or you can stop by our office in Dubuque and pick it up.
-- Sharon L. Kuttler, RDH
Recently I was introduced to a magazine called The Sun by a good friend of ours. I loved it! She loaned us her January issue, and it contained a variety of articles related to health—a topic of great interest to all of us at Kuttler Dental. I appreciated the excerpted portion from Normal Cousins’ book entitled Anatomy of an Illness. Although I’ve read the book before, it was a refreshing reminder of the patient’s perspective, and I appreciated the reminder.
However, the article that I want to highlight was an interview with Dr. Andrew Weil titled “Vital Signs; Dr. Andrew Weil Diagnoses Western Medicine”. Although western medicine was the subject, much of the article could have just as easily been focused on dentistry. Both medical doctors and dentists are all trained to treat disease far more than we are to prevent it—although I’m happy to say that I believe dentistry has always been in the forefront of prevention and has emphasized it for many years.
Dr. Weil speaks of integrative medicine which he defines as “first and foremost focusing on the body’s natural healing potential, which has been ignored in conventional medical education and training.”He further explains the concept:
- Integrative medicine looks at the whole person, because patients are more than physical bodies. To understand health and illness you’ve got to look at the mental and emotional and spiritual dimensions, not to mention the person’s involvement in a community. If you pay attention only to the physical body, you limit your interventions to those that are often the most expensive and the most potentially harmful.
- Integrative medicine focuses on preventing disease and promoting health. Conventional medicine has failed us here, and that is one cause of the healthcare crisis. We are too occupied with managing cases of established diseases, most of which are lifestyle related and preventable. The essence of prevention is not colonoscopies and mammograms; it is understanding how our life choices reduce or increase the risk of disease. As a society we need to be helping people make better choices.
- Integrative medicine emphasizes the doctor-patient relationship, which was once a major reward of practicing medicine. In the era of for-profit medicine, that relationship has been sabotaged. If you work in a corporate practice that requires you to spend only five to seven minutes with each patient, you can’t form the kinds of relationships that foster healing and provide emotional satisfaction.
- Finally, integrative medicine embraces all therapeutic options that may be of value. That includes many that aren’t even on the radar of conventional medicine — simple, low-cost interventions like breath work and laughter therapy. The preference is for more-natural, less-invasive, less-expensive options whenever possible.
When I read Dr. Weil’s words, one of the big things I take away from them is that he is talking about the importance of first treating the patient and then that person’s disease. That feels very different to me than treating the disease that happens to be occupying someone’s body. I remember years ago hearing someone talk about the difference between saying someone is a diabetic versus saying someone has diabetes. That has stayed with me ever since, and we’ve tried very hard to integrate that approach into our practice. We try to care for our clients as people who may have dental problems and who almost certainly would like to prevent those problems from re-occurring in the future.
I also read Dr. Weil emphasizing the importance of forming a partnership between the physician ( I read “dentist” ) and the patient. That resonates with me so very much, because I believe there is little we can do to effectively treat dental disease that doesn’t need to involve the person who has it. While I can restore decayed or broken teeth, if we don’t change the environment of that person’s mouth, the problems will only re-occur. And I don’t believe that helps anyone.
Lastly, I appreciate how Dr. Weil stresses the importance of treating the body, mind, and spirit. While that may seem far out to some folks, especially as it relates to dentistry, I don’t agree. In dentistry we are trying to prevent, and are treating, “life-style diseases”. True preventive dentistry is far more than teaching someone to floss. It is working with people to identify some of the causes of their dental problems—whether those might be cavities, gum disease, teeth-grinding, or others. I believe those issues are significantly impacted by daily choices—their life’s style. Whenever we are paying attention to someone’s lifestyle, I believe we are involving the entire person—truly their body, mind and spirit.
Yes, we fix and clean teeth in our office, but we really want to help people require our services less in the future because they are healthier. Helping people develop healthy habits is the most valuable service we offer at Kuttler Dental!
-- Bill Kuttler, D.D.S.
Wesley just celebrated his first birthday - and WE celebrated his first visit to our practice!
You may ask, "What can you do with a one year old at a dental visit?" Our answer: "LOTS!"
The entire Kuttler Dental Team is committed to helping you with the healthy habits to prevent dental problems - and what better time to begin than at the very start?
Before a child is even born, we are discussing preventive care with expectant parents and helping mothers care for their dental health during their pregnancy. We prepare our families with what to expect and what to be doing in those first few months, from taking care of the baby's gums and new teeth to starting good habits and dietary choices. As any new parent will tell you - so much happens so fast in those first months! We want to help the caregivers of our future little patients know what to do and why.
By the first birthday there will be some teeth to look at, some developmental clues to future issues, and lots of homework to discuss with caregivers. At the first appointment our dentist, Bill, does a thorough examination and answers any questions about the child's history and potential issues.
One of the things that sets us apart from most dental practices is that ALL children see a registered dental hygienist for their appointments. I have been fortunate in my dental hygiene career to have practiced with exceptional pediatric dentists, been employed as a dental consultant for Head Start programs, and presented dental health education for pre-natal classes. Those learning opportunities have helped us create a unique approach to how we work behaviorally and clinically with children in our practice. So when I see a child for their first visit (and for every visit from then on), we are developing a trusting relationship that will help each child not only have a healthier mouth and bright smile, but a positive attitude about going to the dentist.
Besides the examination, oral cleaning and fluoride treatment, the first visit with us is also a 'dental play date'! At this visit and each one after, we work to familiarize each child with who we are, what we do, what they need to do, and why. We make each visit educationally age-appropriate so that we can maximize our impact on what each child takes home and carries forward until we see them at their next visit. Special notes and letters to children reinforce our times together. Our loving and interactive environment builds trust and security, as well as good dental habits.
We look forward to seeing Wesley in 6 months - and working together with his parents to create not only a very bright and positive dental future, but also helping him with a positive attitude about dentistry and good dental health for his entire life!
-- Sharon Kuttler, R.D.H.