It has been three years now since Dr. Ken Lee took over the local dental practise from Dr. David Neale who served the community for many years. As a university student, Dr. Lee knew his interest lay in the sciences, and considered medicine, ophthalmology and dentistry. As a regular visitor to the dentist, Lee was inspired to pursue this career thanks to an interesting ongoing relationship with his own dentist, a medical professional he knew well and respected.
One of the images that Dr. Lee would like to dispel is that visiting the dentist is painful. Many patients hold onto fear based on experiences in the distant past that do not in any way resemble current dental practises at clinics like his. Technology has even reduced the size (and pain) of the needles used to dispense freezing drugs. These days there is no reason a dental visit should be painful.
One the biggest improvements in dentistry is found in tooth replacement techniques. Dr. Lee compares denture technology to travelling to Toronto on a bicycle: it will get you there, but it might not be worth the effort. Dental implants provide a patient with teeth that not only look good, but are stable, allowing normal chewing technique which restores the ability to eat food such as apples, corn and meat with confidence and efficiency. He points out that missing teeth not only affect the ability to eat, but erodes confidence and discourages smiling, which eventually reduces the social interaction of older patients, an ingredient that is firmly linked to physical and emotional health. Dental care is often the last health priority for seniors as they lose the fine motor controls necessary to perform hygiene tasks such as brushing and flossing, and these tasks are even more difficult for a third party to perform.
Dr. Lee is puzzled by the current distinction in the medical profession between oral health and general health, as he believes the two are firmly connected. His view on this is widely shared, and more research is uncovering strong links between oral health and specific diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and strokes.
Known as a silent disease, gum disease can stem from genetic tendencies, the environment or hygiene habits, and is known to spike with stress. It is caused by an accumulation of plaque, which is a biofilm that develops naturally from an accumulation of bacteria which grows in the mouth, and can lead to tooth decay and tooth loss. These days there is growing interest in a possible connection between plaque in the mouth and plaque in the arteries, which is also a silent disease.
Dr. Lee suggests that the first dental appointment for a patient should be at one year of age, to get a positive routine and relationship established and for prevention. The enthusiastic young staff are ready to help patients young and old establish an effective and pain-free oral health care routine to keep them smiling!