General dentistry is the type of dentistry that casts the widest net over the area of oral health. General dentists are primary care providers, like a family doctor.
Dentists are concerned with far more than just your teeth. They diagnose and treat issues with the mouth, teeth, and gums. This may include general problems related to the tongue and jaw.
However, when problems related to any of these areas become more advanced, your general dentist may refer you to an oral health specialist. Some types of dental specialty include orthodontics, periodontics, and cosmetic dentistry, to name just a few.
What does the term general dentistry encompass?
The primary goal of general dentistry is to prevent problems. General dentistry responsibilities include the following:
- Help prevent oral diseases
- Promote oral health
- Diagnose oral diseases
- Create plans to treat, maintain or restore their patients’ oral health
To help prevent oral diseases, dentists advise their patients about the correct way to brush and floss. They also conduct regular cleanings and exams and interpret x-rays. In addition, to promote oral health, they may also offer advice about gum care, diet or even lifestyle.
In addition, dentists diagnose and treat many oral health conditions. As many people know firsthand, dentists find and remove decay and fill cavities when needed. However, they also repair fractured teeth, do root canals and extractions, and monitor and treat gum health issues.
General Dentistry Education Requirements
The US educational and licensing requirements for dentists are very stringent. First, the would-be dentist must have at least three years of undergrad education.
Next, they must earn a degree from an accredited dental school. There are two degrees available from US dental schools. These are the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degrees. While the degrees use different words, they are functionally equal, according to the American Dental Association.
Learn more: Dental Degrees
To graduate dental school, dentists must pass the two-part National Board Dental Exam known as the NBDE I and II. In addition, to practice general dentistry in the US, dentists must also pass a licensing exam, apply to work in their state, and pass the state’s ethics exam.
Finally, general dentists must complete a number of Continuing Dental Education (CDE) courses each year. The number of courses varies by state.
Read next: Choosing a Dentist
Teeth whitening is big business. By 2024, the global teeth whitening market will climb to over $7 billion in US dollars, researchers predict.
What’s driving the market? Well, in addition to clean, healthy teeth, people want their teeth to be white. In fact, the same researchers reported that 99.2% of the people they polled believed that their smiles are important social benefits.
Moreover, the researchers expect demand for teeth whitening products around the world to drive the market increase. Examples of areas with increased demand include Germany, France, UK, India and China.
Home Teeth Whitening
Everyone wants to have white, healthy-looking teeth. However, cost can be a deterrent. The field of cosmetic dentistry offers various options, from toothpastes to bleaching trays.
However, it can be quite expensive to see a professional to whiten your teeth. Still, the desire for white teeth finds ways to overcome cost constraints. For example, analysts at IBISWorld reported that, even in the face of a difficult economy during 2012, the industry was still able to grow.
As a result, home teeth whitening is one way to save money. If you are looking for a more affordable alternative, these types of products may be able to help. There are even homemade alternatives that some people swear by. For a rundown of your options, read this blog.
Note that the causes of tooth discoloration may affect the results you’re likely to have with various processes. For that reason alone, it’s worth consulting a dentist first.
Will dental insurance cover the cost of teeth whitening?
Over the counter alternatives are relatively inexpensive compared to the costs of professional teeth whitening. It’s estimated that, on average, professional’s charge $650 for in-office laser whitening. Take-home whitening trays, on the other hand, typically run around $400. Over the counter varieties generally cost less than $100.
Because it is a cosmetic procedure, very few dental insurance policies cover teeth whitening. However, some dentists do offer their own plans. In addition, discount dental plans may provide the coverage you need.
Read next: Discount Dental Plans
In earlier blogs, we’ve seen the ways that oral health affects overall health. In this post, we will look more closely at how dental health affects your heart.
Research proves there are many health risks related to poor oral health. In fact, harm to overall health can follow fast if people ignore their oral health. Diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s are just a few of the health issues that have a proven link.
But is there proof that shows how dental health affects your heart?
How Dental Health Affects Your Heart
Scientists are still working to find the precise means to explain how dental health affects your heart. However, there is little if any doubt that the effects are real.
“It’s hard to prove cause and effect,” says Thomas Boyden, Jr., MD, medical director of preventive cardiology at Spectrum Health Medical Group Cardiovascular Services in Grand Rapids, MI. “However,” he says, “I think the data is pretty strong and there is definitely a link.”
Scott Merritt, DMD, agrees. He’s the founder of Bridgemill Dentistry in Canton, GA. “I absolutely believe there is a strong correlation between oral disease and heart function,” Merritt says.
The Prime Suspect: Plaque
But what is the link between oral health and heart health? Researchers have found that people with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to have heart disease. Therefore, a very strong suspect is dental plaque.
When we eat, tiny food particles stick to our teeth and attract bacteria. Regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups and cleanings help keep our mouths healthy. If we brush and floss daily, the bacteria are less likely to turn into plaque.
However, when plaque forms, it can turn into tartar, which may lead to gum disease. This allows bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream via the gums. Then, the bacteria can stick to fatty plaques in the bloodstream.
Finally, the bacteria can trigger an inflammatory response. This natural response to infection causes blood vessels to swell. In addition, as blood flow reduces due to the swelling, the risk for blood clots increases.
Better Oral Health for Better Heart Health
According to DentistryIQ, there are more than 85 million Americans with some form of cardiovascular disease and more than 200 million American adults with some form of gum disease. Could a focus on better oral health help improve the nation’s heart health?
We think so. It’s an interesting coincidence that the month of February is both Heart Health Month and Gum Disease Awareness Month. What better time to deepen our knowledge of the link between oral health and heart health.
Sharing is caring. Please help us spread the word to your social networks!
Read next: How Dark Chocolate Affects Our Oral Health
There’s something curious about wisdom teeth. They’re not like baby teeth or permanent teeth. They come on the scene much later than other teeth. They may grow in between the ages of 17 and 25.
Why They’re Called “Wisdom Teeth”
Formally speaking, wisdom teeth are our third molars. The origin of the term is a little murky. In general, most sources repeat the same theory. That is, these teeth get their name because they only grow in when a person is more mature or “wise.”
In addition to being an elder-centric idea, this is also a very old idea. In fact, our English phrase appears to come from the ancient Latin phrase, “dens sapientiae.”
Whatever the origin, though, one thing is certain. When they do appear, the tranquil days of youth meet the responsibilities of adulthood.
Who needs them?
It seems we needed wisdom teeth in the past. Some scientists believe our third set of molars helped our ancestors to chew coarse food like leaves and roots.
However, like our appendix, they no longer serve us. In that sense, they’re “leftovers.” They don’t have a function any longer.
Like most leftovers, you can’t just ignore them. Oh, you can try. However, they have a way of making you pay attention. Sooner or later, you may have to do something about them. As with most things dental, prevention beats restoration.
Why Your Dentist May Need to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth frequently cause problems. When they do, they need to come out.
For example, they often grow in a way that can harm other teeth. An “impacted” wisdom tooth is a common problem of this type. This means the new tooth is pushing into the tooth next to it instead of growing up out of the gum. This can cause severe pain and may even lead to tooth decay or gum disease.
If wisdom teeth start to push your other teeth around, pain and problems can occur. In addition, your dentist may want to remove these teeth if they fail to emerge fully.
For these reasons, dentists often pull young adults’ third molars before they can cause any problems. If they do begin to cause pain, your dentist will almost certainly want to discuss their removal.
Learn more about wisdom teeth removal.
We’ve heard the question, “What is a dental health aide therapist?” more often lately. Simply put, it’s a way to expand access to oral health care. The concept isn’t exactly new. However, it is only beginning to catch on here in the US.
DHATs (or dental therapists) are midlevel dental care providers. Like medical physician’s assistants, they work as part of a team. In addition, they generally provide both preventive and restorative services.
The dental health aide therapist or DHAT model does have some critics. However, more states are making the DHAT role a part of their oral health systems. Let’s look at what it is, how it got started, and what kind of training it entails.
DHAT Duties and Qualifications
Typically, DHATs provide clinical dental services. They usually assist in dental prevention and dental health education. DHATs work as “extensions” of their supervising dentists. In addition, they may also work with a dental team. The routine services they provide help prevent and treat oral disease.
Before working as a DHAT, one must meet federal requirements through study with an accredited institution. Certification is also required, to ensure knowledge of general dentistry. Topics of study include disease prevention, dental health education, and basic restorative, preventive and surgical procedures.
How the Dental Health Aide Therapist Model Started
New Zealand created the DHAT model about a 100 years ago. The goal was to help improve oral health for school-aged kids. More recently, the system has gained traction in areas like Alaska. In such areas, access to dentists can be severely limited. And that can lead to severe problems.
In 2009, for example, Alaska had a serious “epidemic of oral disease,” according to dentist Dane Lenaker. “A 2008 investigation of oral disease in Alaska Native children found that among children aged 4-5 years and 12-15 years…, 87% and 91%, respectively, had dental caries,” Lenaker reported. Compare that to 35% and 51% of U.S. children with cavities in those age groups.
“Among children from the Alaska villages,” Lenaker continues, “those aged 4-5 years had a mean of 7.5 dental caries, and those aged 12-15 years had a mean of 5.0, compared with 1.6 and 1.8 dental caries in same-aged U.S. children.”
Alaskans adopted the DHAT model after repeated failures to recruit and retain dentists. Today, over 50 countries use the model, Lenaker notes. A review of the model worldwide, which looked at over 1000 studies and reports, found it expands access to safe and effective oral health care.
Dental Health Aide Therapist Training
Interest in DHATs has grown since the launch of Alaska’s DHAT program. Today, Minnesota, Maine, Vermont, and Washington have all passed laws allowing the practice. Tribal communities in the Pacific Northwest also employ DHATs. In addition, other states are considering legislation in favor of the model.
In Alaska, tribal communities recruit students for training as DHATs. The students complete a rigorous program. They receive education equivalent to three academic years in just two years. Next, they complete “preceptorships” with dentists. After training is complete, the state certifies them to work offsite under general supervision.
DHATs can consult with their supervising dentists remotely. They refer patients to dentists when treatment services are outside of their scope. Because they practice in areas very like the ones where they grew up, they understand the community members’ customs and needs.
According to Lenaker, the first class of DHAT students in Alaska got their training in New Zealand. They began practicing in Alaska in 2006. More recently, DHAT training was available through a University of Washington School of Medicine program based upon the New Zealand model. The UW’s DHAT program moved to Alaska in 2017.
Read next: Top Dental News 2017
Many people ask, “Can dental problems cause health problems?” That’s a fair question. The simple answer is, “Yes.” But you might be surprised at just how closely related the two truly are.
A large amount of evidence shows the risks that go with poor oral health. Having bad teeth can affect your health in more ways than one. That’s because, if they enter your bloodstream, oral bacteria can inflame other body parts. Moreover, if you ignore oral health concerns, harm to overall health can take place quickly.
What kinds of health problems do bad teeth cause? The risks for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s all increase when oral infections spread through the body. Scientists also know: when dentists remove plaque from teeth, the body works better.
What about mental health?
The oral and mental health link is sometimes hard to see. However, in 2017, Hollywood actor Demi Moore talked about her experience with anxiety and oral health. While chatting with Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, Moore told of her personal fight with bruxism, which she said had destroyed several of her teeth.
Recently, the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging, looked at middle-aged oral health. The study found that 1 in 3 Americans in the 50-64 age range feel embarrassed by their teeth. In addition, 51% face the anxiety of not knowing how they’ll get dental insurance after 65.
Moreover, 13% of the sample said they were counting on Medicare or Medicaid to cover oral care needs after age 65. Yet, traditional Medicare does not cover the cost of routine dental work. Medicaid coverage for dental care is, sadly, often limited.
Can dental problems cause health problems? You bet they can.
There is little room for doubt that oral health affects far more than just your teeth. Looked at the other way around, oral health can help ensure overall health. Oral health starts with regular dental hygiene. However, it doesn’t stop there. A regular dental checkup is vital.
The observations your dentist makes during a checkup aren’t just limited to oral hygiene. Simply by looking in your mouth, your dentist can tell whether you’ve been under excessive stress, suffer acid reflux, drink excessively, are at risk for diabetes, and a host of other issues.
The benefits of oral health are things we all want. A longer life, higher income, more money in the bank, less stress and a better love life are all linked to oral health.
Make Your Oral Health a Priority
So, if you haven’t made a resolution for the new year, how about this: Resolve to make 2018 your year of oral health. Your heart will thank you, your waistline may thank you – who knows, your lover may even find a special way to thank you.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year!
Read next: 5 Reasons Healthy Smiles Lead to Success
Low cost dental care has never been easy to find. A 2014-‘15 program in Michigan let people trade volunteer work for dental work. A study published this year shows how that worked out.
The Pay It Forward program was a partnership between a nonprofit and the Central District Dental Society of Michigan. It was open to low-income residents in Ingham County and surrounding areas. Adults who took part in the program earned $25 in dental services for each hour of volunteer work.
Low Cost Dental Care in Exchange for Helping a Nonprofit
The non-profit group, Pay It Forward, worked with low-income adults who did not qualify for Medicaid. At the start of the program, 70% were in pain. A third felt their oral health kept limited their food choices. Thirty-eight percent reported discomfort, worry and concern, and 40% said they were not comfortable eating in front of other people.
For the program, the patients took an hour-long oral health class and donated four hours to a nonprofit. There were 80 nonprofits from which to choose. The first four hours covered the cost of low cost dental care. This included an initial exam, x-rays and a cleaning.
Read More: Why you need dental insurance.
Next, the dentists in the program made a plan for needed work. They based costs for the work on Medicaid schedule fees. Then, they told volunteers how many hours they would need to work to cover their services. After volunteers clocked their hours, the dentists did their work.
Survey: Most Felt Their Oral Health Had Improved
Patients worked an average of 33 hours to earn their dental work. They received over $1,150 in low cost dental care, which brought total savings to $43,815. Of course, the need for services varied widely. Actual numbers ranged from $195 to $5,056.
Most of the residents and dentists who participated in the Pay It Forward program said they liked it. In addition, most of the patients said their oral health had improved.
Thirty-eight people took part in the program. Twenty-seven took part in a follow-up survey. Of those, about 4 out of 5 (80%) said they liked the program and would recommend it. Nearly half (12%) said volunteering was “tough to juggle with family and work.”
Read next: Dental Inequality in America
If you have ever searched for affordable dental insurance, you’re far from being alone. A visit to the dentist will cost you, and saving money is a high priority.
However, if you are saving money by putting off needed dental care, you may be hurting your teeth and your budget. And, again, you would not be alone.
Marko Vujicic is chief economist and vice president of the Health Policy Institute at the American Dental Association. According to a study led by Vujicic, more people are avoiding dental care than other types of health care due to cost, the Washington Post reports.
Affordable Dental Insurance: The Cost of Prevention vs. Repair
Managing dental symptoms in a visit to an emergency room can be up to ten times more costly than the cost of prevention.
Most ER dental visits are for infections that a dentist could handle in their office, Vujicic said. According to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, emergency room dental visits cost $1.9 billion a year. Forty percent of that is public money.
“I’m comfortable calling that highly wasteful,” Vujicic told the Post. “That’s a very inefficient way to spend dollars.”
Highlights of the study include the following findings:
– 12.8 percent of non-elderly adults (adults ages 19 to 64) were likely to forgo dental care due to costs
– 7.2 percent of seniors and 4.3 percent of children were likely to forgo dental care due to costs
– Nearly 1 in 4 adults with incomes below poverty level said they skipped dental care due to costs
Even those who do have dental insurance have avoided dental work due to cost, the study found.
How to Find Affordable Dental Insurance
Are you on the hunt for affordable dental insurance? You don’t have to be an expert to make a confident decision. Check out our info on dental plan basics.
You’ll learn how to:
– Identify your needs based on your age and family history
– Evaluate your dental plan options based on treatment, network, and cost variables
– And make your family’s oral health a priority
Regardless of which dental insurance carrier you may choose, make your family’s oral health a top priority. It’s a choice you’ll never regret.
With dental coverage, people tend to maintain better dental habits — brushing, flossing, and regular visits to the dentist — than those without. Teach your children healthy dental habits and help them maintain their teeth throughout life.
Read next: Dental Insurance Companies: An Overview
Studies of oral health roll out on an irregular basis. Some look at the entire population, such as the work reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Others look more closely at specific groups. One recent study looked at middle-aged oral health.
The University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging found that many Americans in the 50-64 age range live with dental pain. In addition, many in this group feel embarrassed by their teeth. Moreover, many also report poor prevention practices where oral health is concerned.
Statistics on Middle-Aged Oral Health in the US
The UM study found that people aged 50-64 face not only current problems but also an uncertain future. Among the problems that people reported are the following:
- 1 in 3 Americans between ages of 50-64 say they feel embarrassed by the their teeth
- 1 in 3 in this group also say dental problems have caused them pain or other problems in the previous two-year period
- More than 1 in 4 have no dental insurance currently
- 51% of those polled do not know how they will get dental insurance after age 65
- 40% do not get regular teeth cleanings or preventive care
Dental Insurance and Middle-Aged Oral Health
The poll suggests insurance coverage and lack of oral health care are related. Only about one in four – 28% – said they had no dental plan. But among those who said they only sought care for serious dental problems, more than half – 56% – had no dental insurance.
How will they afford dental care in the future?
More than half of the sample did not know how they would get dental insurance after age 65. Some 13% are counting on Medicare or Medicaid to cover their oral care needs after 65. However, traditional Medicare will not cover routine dental work. In addition, Medicaid coverage for dental care is often limited.
The Findings “Highlight a Stark Divide”
AARP was one of the partners in the research. Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center, was also involved. The sample included 1,066 people ages 50 to 64.
“Our findings highlight a stark divide among middle-aged Americans in terms of their oral health now,” says associate poll director Erica Solway, Ph.D, “and a real uncertainty about how they will get and pay for care as they age.”
Learn more: Poor Oral Health and Physical Frailty
“This is not out of disregard for the importance of preventive dental care,” Solway continued. “…more than three-quarters of the people we polled agree that regular care is important to preventing problems later. But it does highlight opportunities to improve access to care and insurance options after age 65.”
Solway and poll director Preeti Malani, M.D., a professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School, found that those polled fit into one of three groups based on their responses:
- Prevention-Focused: About 60% got regular preventive care and attention for dental problems
- Inconsistent Prevention: 17% sought preventive dental care only occasionally
- Problem-Only: 23% went to the dentist only for serious dental problems
“We know that oral health is a critical factor in overall wellness,” stated Dr. Alison Bryant, Senior Vice President of Research for AARP, “and this research helps us identify some key issues – such as affordability and coverage – that we can focus on to address those 40% who are not prevention-focused.”
Read next: Supplemental Dental Insurance
There are many great stories we could include in a list titled “top dental news 2017.” Researchers have made many inspiring discoveries this year. Many people have provided deeper insights into the fields of oral health and dentistry over the past 12 months.
Here, in case you missed them, are our picks for the top dental news stories of 2017.
Top Dental News 2017: For healthier teeth, provide better food choices near schools
For a study on oral health promotion, researchers in Canada looked at schools in Greater Montréal. They wanted to see what effects oral health promotion had on kids’ cavity rates.
Many studies have looked at weight issues in and around schools. Only a few have looked at cavities. The researchers found that kids’ food, social and economic environments had a greater impact on oral health than programs that promote healthy choices.
From the report: “Policies promoting healthy eating environments could have a greater impact on children’s oral health than school programs run in isolation…”
Top Dental News 2017: New, fast-dissolving glass puts minerals back into damaged teeth
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) announced in September that they have created a new way to heal teeth. They’re using a type of glass that dissolves quickly.
To help repair teeth, the team is putting “bioactive” glass into toothpaste and dental fillings. As the glass dissolves, it releases Chloride. This forms a chemical that acts like tooth and bone. Used in dental fillings or toothpaste, it helps replace the minerals lost to decay.
“This toothpaste is unique because it can put back the mineral lost from your teeth after consumption of an acidic drink, but without the use of fluoride.” Professor Robert Hill from QMUL’s Institute of Dentistry said. “This isn’t just for people who have bad teeth, everyone can potentially benefit…”
Top Dental News 2017: Slippery inhibitor helps prevent cavities
In a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers created a small molecular inhibitor that “shields” teeth. The inhibitor blocks enzymes so they cannot damage teeth.
In fact, it was able to reduce dental caries, or cavities, in rats even when fed a diet that would normally promote tooth decay. The study included researchers from the Department of Microbiology in the UAB School of Medicine.
The researchers explained that the inhibitor “…can be developed into therapeutic drugs that prevent and treat dental caries.”
Top Dental News 2017: A bad bite linked to postural, balance control
Teeth that don’t quite fit together can lead to jaw pain, gaps between teeth or crowding. However, two new studies have shown that this “malocclusion” can also have an effect on posture and balance.
“What is relevant in the study is that malocclusions have also been associated with different motor and physiological alterations,” explains the main author of the studies.
They showed that correcting the malocclusion improved control over posture and balance. Further proof, if needed, that oral health and overall health truly go hand in hand.
Top Dental News 2017: Household environment, not genetics, shapes salivary microbes
A study by the American Society for Microbiology sheds new light on the important role saliva plays in oral health and overall health. The researchers found that the microorganisms in saliva “are largely determined by the human host’s household,” not by human genetics.
“It’s generally becoming known that there’s a link between our microbiomes and our health and that’s reason enough to find out what’s in there, how they arrived there, and what they are doing,” explained Adam P. Roberts. Roberts is senior lecturer in antimicrobial chemotherapy and resistance at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
The findings indicate that a person’s early environment plays a larger role than was thought in the creation of the microbiome.
Top Dental News 2017: Molecule in human saliva has potential for wound healing
Sticking with the theme of saliva, another study looked at the odd fact that mouth wounds heal faster than other wounds. Scientists already knew that saliva played a role in this, but how was still a mystery.
Now, researchers at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology have shown that a peptide known as salivary peptide histatin-1 promotes blood vessel formation. This process, called angiogenesis, is vital for wounds to heal efficiently.
“We believe that the study could help the design of better approaches to improve wound healing in tissues other than the mouth,” said Vicente A. Torres, Ph.D., associate professor at the Institute for Research in Dental Sciences within the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Chile in Santiago.
Thanks for reading! Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy new year!
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