The Importance of Dental Health

In mid-March, the American Dental Association, in conjunction with their sister state organizations, requested all dental offices close their doors, to curtail the spread of Covid 19.  Offices were to be open only to treat emergencies. By late May, most offices were reopening.

The American Dental Association in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had updated Guidance for Dental Settings, providing stringent new rules. Both organizations describe how dental professionals, building upon existing infection control measures, can help protect patients and their dental team while providing the full range of oral health care.

“Oral health is an important part of overall health, and oral health has often been mentioned as the window to the health of the rest of the body. The mouth shows signs and symptoms of what goes on in the rest of the body.  If your dental health is poor, in general, that would be a reflection of overall less than optimal health.”

Resuming regular dental visits are important because treatment, as well as prevention of dental disease, helps keep people healthy. This is particularly important to seniors, as their dental health becomes more vulnerable and at risk.  Oral health is important and necessary.

When my mother was 90 years old, she went in for carotid artery surgery.  Her left carotid was 95% blocked and the chance of a stroke was very high. When we arrived for pre op check in, the first nurse asked her many questions and then, at the end, said, “take your teeth out.” My mother stated, “These are my own teeth!” To the great surprise of the nurse! My mother had all her teeth.  We then proceeded to the next nurse, who asked her all the same health questions,  and at the end, said, “Take out your teeth” my mother was now insulted and told the nurse, “You can be old and have your teeth, these are my teeth.”

The last stop was the anesthesiologist.  As this woman sat down, my mother immediately blurted out, “THESE ARE MY OWN TEETH!!!” The doctor calmly looked at my mother and said, “yes, I already know that.”  Puzzled, I asked the Doctor if she had, while looking at the x-rays of the carotid artery, noticed that she had all of her teeth? The anesthesiologist’s reply was fascinating. She said, “I am head of anesthesia at this hospital. Your mother, based on her age, is a high-risk patient. I have been doing this for over 25 years. In that time, when I am intubating patients over 85, I find that most have all or most of their teeth. When I intubate a patient in their 50’s or 60’s missing many teeth, I know that these people are not going to make it to their 80’s. They are going to be dead. Poor dental health translates to poor overall health.” My mother made it through the surgery, even though the risk of dying on the table was higher than the risk for having a stroke! She lived another 4 years. She had all her teeth when she died.