More info

Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print

Your Family Dentist

The First Line of Defense

    When Don Trester visits his dental hygienist, Jo Ann Galliano, three times each year, he knows that he is doing more than just getting his teeth cleaned—he is setting up his first line of defense in his overall healthcare.
    Galliano checks his glands, takes his blood pressure, checks his mouth and gums for lesions and works on getting him to stop smoking and chewing gum. Trester, who lives in Alameda and is a transportation engineer for the city of Oakland, relies on these regular visits to Galliano to help keep him in good health.
    “She is very thorough and diligent about checking for things in my mouth, looking for any signs of trouble,” Trester says. Galliano sends him to his doctor as soon as she spies anything suspicious.
    “The hygienist is usually the first level of detection for a number of health issues,” explains Galliano, program director for the Chabot College dental hygiene program and a private practice hygienist in Alameda. “Research shows that oral health and system health are intrinsically linked. As a result, we’ve started to change the mentality that dentists and hygienists only deal with the mouth.”
    According to studies conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology, the mouth-body connection is strong, indicating that periodontal bacteria can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs and begin new infections. This situation contributes to heart disease and increases the risk of stroke as well as the risk of giving birth to a preterm, low-birth-weight baby for women. It also poses a serious threat to anyone whose health is compromised by diabetes, respiratory diseases or osteoporosis. New studies also indicate a link between oral hygiene and rheumatoid arthritis.
    “We used to think that bad teeth and a bad heart were just the result of bad eating—that heart problems and gum problems were tied to a bad diet,” says Alameda dentist William Gardner. “But now we know that there is a definite link between coronary/heart disease and periodontal [gum] disease. We’ve found that these diseases are managed better if teeth are cleaned regularly. Helping control one helps the other,” Gardner notes. In addition to systemic disorders, dental health practitioners can help detect melanomas (skin cancer) in the mouth and provide solutions to alleviate the pain of some types of migraine headaches.
    Both Galliano and Gardner insist that they are not medical physicians and do not diagnose illness or disease.
    “We provide information and refer patients to their physicians. We try to get them to go to the doctor, but it’s really up to them to follow up,” says Galliano.
    And though Galliano hasn’t convinced Trester to completely stop smoking (he’s down to just six cigarettes a day), she did get him to stop chewing gum. But, having her as his first line of medical defense is something he can still sink his teeth into.

Closer to Home

California Dental Hygienists’ Association, www.cdha.org, (818) 500-8217

Alameda County Dental Society, www.alamedacds.org, (510) 547-7188

General Resources

Things You Should Know About Teeth: A Dental Health Guide, by Benjamin Lee, B.D.S., 2007.

Health Agencies and Web Sites
American Dental Association, www.ada.org, (312) 440-2500

American Dental Hygienists’ Association, www.adha.org, (312) 440-8900

American Academy of Periodontology, www.perio.org, (312) 787-5518

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Edit Module
Green Business