Why dentistry must promote that it is essential healthcare

By Dr. Caesar Butura, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

December 2, 2020 -- I found it rather surprising that most dental procedures were considered "unessential" during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dentistry provides an essential part of healthcare that was, unfortunately, unavailable to the majority of the population in the U.S. for up to nearly four months. It makes no sense. Dentistry, at all levels, should have been deemed essential because we provide the first line of care and diagnosis in patients, especially those with comorbidities.

When any form of government issues warnings about dentistry and procedures, it can affect our patient's health. Some clearly do not understand that the oral cavity is the gateway to our immune system, and neglecting it can decrease overall health. Moving forward, during health crises such as pandemics, it is very important that dentistry establishes itself as part of a holistic approach to medical care. Dentistry is part of medical care and should not be ignored or, worse yet, abandoned during any health crises.

Dr. Caesar Butura
Dr. Caesar Butura.

Our patients -- and clearly those who made the decision against dentistry -- may not realize saliva has two very important antibodies, immunoglobulin A (IgA) and immunoglobulin G (IgG). As experts, we must make sure they understand that the oral cavity is the real first line of defense in an individual's immune system. If the oral cavity's microflora is out of balance, or if patients are afflicted by significant decay, oral infections, or periodontal disease, their entire health is affected. Patients with comorbidities such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, and diabetes are even more at risk. Seeing the dentist should be part of their strategy in self-protection against the novel coronavirus.

Among medical professionals, it is well known that the bacteria in periodontal disease affect the cardiovascular system, not just the heart itself but the entire circulatory system. The bacteria cause inflammation of the arteries and, with that, accumulation of plaque, which over time occludes the vascular system. Poor oral health also affects glycemic control in diabetics and can make it very difficult to properly control daily glucose balance. But do our patients and others who can determine what is essential know this?

During the imposed shutdown, we did treat patients with emergencies. Unfortunately, most of those patients had other health issues, ranging from coronary artery disease to diabetes and previous heart attacks. We even had one patient who was on an organ transplant list.

Our patients' health is taken very seriously. We treat the patient as a whole and not just the oral cavity. We are in constant contact with their physicians, cardiologists, endocrinologists, and nephrologists to be able to co-manage their general healthcare. We work closely with their physicians, especially if patients are on medications that can affect their healing or their coagulation pathways. Our work is essential healthcare, and we must make sure to promote it that way to patients, other healthcare providers, and the government.

We are all surely educating our patients to look at their oral health with great importance. Let's not let up on this effort. Many diseases initially manifest themselves in the oral cavity, and patients and medicine, in general, must be aware of this fact. We must all stand together and make sure people know that in all aspects of life, oral healthcare is just as important as taking care of all other vital organs. This is key information and should be top of mind during this pandemic.

Dr. Caesar Butura graduated from Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery and subsequently completed the oral and maxillofacial surgery program at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago. Butura is also board certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Currently, he serves as the chairperson of the ClearChoice Clinical Advisory Board.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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