Williamson 1Nolan WilliamsonMrs. CorbettAP Literature17 November, 2011 The Importance of Dentistry In our society, dentistry and oral hygiene as a whole has been overlooked and is beingviewed as a luxury. Insurance policies and company sponsored health benefits are droppingdental coverage from their plans, and those that do include dental coverage are too expensive formiddle class and impoverished Americans. Dentistry plays a large role in American culture andhas evolved extensively since it began, with its procedures now bearing cosmetic and life savingeffects. To start, dental care has been around since 7000 BC. Holes in teeth and the tools used todrill them have been found in ancient graveyards around the world. The exact purpose of theseancient drillings is still unknown, however some speculation points to them being used to“Release evil Spirits” (“The History of Dentistry”). However, dentistry as a trade skill did notarise until the 1700s. During this time, guides on theoretical dentistry were published, and thewealthy began to visit skilled dentists for tooth removal, replacement, or even early versions ofdentures. Unfortunately for underclass citizens who could not afford to be seen by a skilledworker, the only alternative was to visit the village blacksmith who had the skills to producedental tools, but not the skills to use them. Underclass citizens experienced painful dental care, asthe tools were primitive, and the operator had little or no practice using them. Not much changedfor a hundred years until the 19th century, which is still considered to be the most significant timein dental history. During this time the number of practicing dentists increased exponentially,
Williamson 2along with the tools and methods employed in the practice. Dedicated anesthetics such as nitrousoxide and chloroform gained popularity in the industry, making the procedures much lesstormenting. More affordable and reliable dentures were introduced to the public and were alsoproduced at a higher rate. Dental care became accessible to the common man during this time,and solidified dentistry in common human health. In the 20th century, further technologicaladvances were made which had lasting effects in the evolution of dental equipment. Fluoridetoothpastes were introduced and quickly adopted, reducing cavities by nearly half. X-rayequipment became common in dental work, along with the new air-pressure driven dental toolsintroduced in the late 1950s. By the 1990s cosmetic dentistry, intended to only improve the colorand look of teeth, was becoming universally popular in American and European culture. Recently however, the presence of dental coverage in the workforce has been inrecession. Often, this is due to factors such as poverty, geography, lack of education, or otherbarriers preventing individuals from receiving care (“Breaking Down Barriers to Oral Health”).Science is continually uncovering more evidence pointing to the importance of oral health inconjunction with overall health. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent most oral diseases,which when left untreated can have excruciatingly painful or even disfiguring consequences.Without access to dental coverage, individuals are at risk of leaving detrimental oral diseasesuntreated. There are nearly 82 million people who do not have accessible dental coverage inAmerica alone (“Repairing the Tattered Safety Net”). Without access to dental providers, theseindividuals are at risk of experiencing tooth decay, should they develop any disease or conditionwhich remains untreated. One of the many duties a dentist and oral hygienist is bestowed with is dental education.A dentist’s work and patient education is the first and most effective line of defense against oral
Williamson 3diseases. Only 60% of the American population makes annual dentist visits, leaving the other40% at a significantly higher risk of having a potentially dangerous oral disease and leaving itundiagnosed (“The Role of Dental Professionals”). The perceived role of the dentist being solelyto fill cavities and clean teeth is long gone and has now literally become a matter of life anddeath. Oral health has wider reaching effects than previously thought. There are now scientificlinks between poor oral health and disorders of other systems in the body and even connectionswith birth defects and heart disease (“Oral Diseases”). Oral cancer is an often under respected disease prevalent in our society. Although oralcancer has a 90% cure rate, the lasting cosmetic effects resulting from the disease can bemortifying; however these can be prevented through annual visits to a dental practitioner. Thedisease most frequently presents itself due to tobacco use and poor oral hygiene, but alcohol alsoincreases the risk of developing oral cancer (“Oral Cancer”). Poor oral hygiene, resulting incontinual lesions or toxic materials remaining lodged in the teeth or gums can further acceleratecancer growth. Oral cancer tends to metastasize, or spread quickly and moves through the bodydeveloping tumors elsewhere. Often starting as an inconspicuous sore or ulcer, the cancerquickly grows into a tumor which must be surgically removed, resulting in disfigurement of theface, head or neck. If the cancer diagnosis is significantly delayed, 1 in 4 cases can result inmortality (ADAM). Simple visits to the dentist can prevent the onslaught of this disease and savean individual’s life. Dental cavities are one of the two most common disorders in humans, second to thecommon cold (Rosenberg). Tooth decay is the act of natural bacteria in an individual’s mouthconverting food, namely starches, into acid which dissolves the protective covering, enamel,from the tooth and creates holes in the teeth referred to as “cavities”. When the acid produced by
Williamson 4this bacteria combines with saliva, an adhesive and off white colored compound is formed, calledplaque. This material then adheres to the teeth and begins to dissolve the enamel until it isremoved, generally through brushing. Should this plaque remain on the teeth, tooth decay willaccelerate, leading to more delicate cavities. While small, often microscopic holes forming in anindividual’s teeth may not be a cause for alarm, usually only resulting in mild halitosis (knownas “bad breath”), however should the conditions be allowed to persist, more formidablecomplications may arise. Teeth with more cavities are prone to discolor, fracture, becomesensitive, or develop tooth abscesses. A tooth abscess is a condition in which tooth decayescalates to a point at which the center of the tooth, known as the pulp, becomes infected. Toothabscesses are described by patients as being a “severe toothache” (Rosenberg), and are oftenassociated with bitter taste, painful chewing, severe halitosis, as well as inflammation in the neckor jaw. Tooth abscesses can be treated with a variety of methods, though some are painful. Aroot canal can be done in an attempt to save the tooth; while alternatively, antibiotics can betaken in conjunction with pain killers to reduce inflammation and rid the tooth of the infection.Tooth decay may be the most common oral disorder, but it is by no means the only common oraldisorder. Gum disease, along with tooth decay and oral cancer, are the three most common medicalcomplications in the dental profession. Gum disease is a condition which hails from a mildercondition known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is caused by bacteria becoming entrapped in thehardened form of plaque, known as tartar. The bacteria cause inflammation in the surroundinggum tissue, causing the gums to become swollen and more prone to bleeding. This can bereversed and prevented through regular flossing and brushing along with routine visits to a dentalprofessional (“Periodontal Disease”). Conversely, when the condition is left untreated, it can
Williamson 5intensify into periodontitis, the more serious form of gum disease. While more common amongadults, this disorder can loosen teeth, cause painful chewing and incite gum line recession. Atthis point, the dentist or oral hygienist must administer strong antibiotics, or even performsurgery to reduce the effects this disease can provoke, such as bone loss. Gum disease as a wholecan be easily prevented from the beginning if a patient flosses and brushes regularly in additionto annual dental visits. Unlike other procedures, cosmetic dental procedures carry no health gain, as they onlyaffect the aesthetics of an individual’s smile. Within the last thirty years these procedures havebecome widely popular and vary from teeth whitening procedures to gum realignment. Teethwhitening has become the most popular of these procedures in dentistry. There are two variationsof whitening; bleaching, and whitening. In whitening, a solution of hydrogen peroxide orcarbamide peroxide is applied to the teeth, causing a bleaching reaction which lightens the colorof the teeth back to their original intended color. In some cases however, bleaching may bepreferred. The same solutions and techniques are used in bleaching, the only difference beingthat the concentration is significantly higher in bleaching procedures, which allows patients toreceive a color whiter than teeth normally are (Dyett). While this procedure is recommended inan environment where it can be performed by a professional, there are over the counter solutionsas well. These solutions do not carry the same chemicals used by professionals and are usuallyonly capable of whitening part of the smile. Dentistry is an underappreciated health field in our society today and has more of animportance to overall health and beauty than most recognize. The practice has come a long waysince it started, yet many still have no access to its power. The dentist can play a life saving rolethat remains unacknowledged as many oral diseases can only be caught by a professional.
Williamson 6Cosmetic procedures are becoming the dental field’s primary source of popularity, yet theseprocedures carry only an aesthetic appeal. Through these many roles, a dentist can create a smilethat can brighten the day.
Williamson 7 Works CitedA.D.A.M. “Oral Cancer.” National Library of Medicine . N.p., 28 Feb. 2011. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002030/>. American Dental Association. “Breaking Down Barriers to Oral Health for All Americans.” American Dental Association. N.p., 22 Feb. 2011. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. <http://www.ada.org/sections/advocacy/pdfs/ada_workforce_statement.pdf>.- - -. “Repairing the Tattered Safety Net.” American Dental Association. N.p., Aug. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.ada.org/sections/advocacy/pdfs/breaking-down-barriers.pdf>.Dyett, Linda. “Teeth Whitening.” Your Dentistry Guide. N.p., 12 Sept. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yourdentistryguide.com/teeth-whitening/>. “The History of Dentistry.” Namibian Dental Association. N.p., 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.namibiadent.com/History/HistoryDentistry.html>. “Oral Cancer.” Illinois Department of Public Health . Illinois Department of Public Health , 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <http://www.idph.state.il.us/cancer/index.htm>. “Oral Diseases.” Health Canada. Government of Canada, 19 Oct. 2010. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/oral-bucco/disease-maladie/index-eng.php>. “Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research . National Institutes of Health , July 2011. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/ PeriodontalGumDisease.htm>.
Williamson 8 “The Role of Dental and Medical Professionals.” The Oral Cancer Foundation. N.p., 1 Mar. 2009. Web. 30 Oct. 2011. <http://oralcancerfoundation.org/dental/role_of_dentists.htm>.Rosenberg, Jack D. “Dental Cavities.” National Library of Medicine. N.p., 22 Feb. 2010. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001055.htm>.