Beyond the Mouth: The Impact of Oral Health

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Beyond the Mouth The Impact of Oral Health In Pitt Street Dental Centre At Sydney

Oral health requires so much more than simply talking about it.

What has been spoken of for some time now, is the physical functioning, and emotional and social wellbeing enmeshed in the consequences of neglected dental hygiene.

Seventy-five years ago the World Health Organisation (WHO) formulated the definition of health as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

It highlighted the multi-dimensional circumstance of human fitness.

The concept was that good health provides an everyday resource. It gives the capacity and resilience to deal with stress, and unexpected or challenging situations, so that balance and equilibrium can be restored and maintained.

Being 1948, a year when the most innovative inventions were the Frisbee, the Wurlitzer jukebox and Velcro, it was a rationale that was heavily criticised at the time. Rather than deemed radical and groundbreaking, it was considered unrealistic, unworkable and completely unachievable in its breadth and ambition.

Who did WHO think it was..?

Ironically, it’s the same attitude that perpetually keeps dental care excluded from medical healthcare models.

Another thirty-odd years passed before this relationship between health, stress and contentment was lauded and applauded. Academician Aaron Antonovsky (1923-1994) took the helm and researched the study of health rather than disease; coining the word ‘salutogenesis’ on his journey: from the Latin genesis, (origin) and saluto (health).

Between 1972 and 1979 this Brooklyn, New York-born Israeli sociologist continued developing his salutogenic model of health; it’s formulation having begun in the mid 1950s. He described it as a ‘personal odyssey’, spurred by the intriguing question, “What are the origins of health?”

Medical beliefs and treatments change, being under consistent review and aided by the development of scientific methods and technology. Netherlands general practitioner Bart van Herk remembers the way in which an internal medicine professor addressed first year students. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he would say, “I am glad to be able to teach you. But please keep In mind about half of what I am going to tell you in the next six years will turn out eventually not to be true. I wish to god I knew which half.”

Beyond the Mouth The Impact of Oral Health At Pitt Street Dental Centre In Sydney

Health, Stress and Coping was the first of Antonovsky’s three books published in 1979.

It was the culmination of his research and reasoning that disease, illness and deterioration are the human condition norm rather than the exception. He found that trying to understand and control every aspect of the manifestation of any disease is futile. What he found to be considerably more useful is to focus on overall adaptation to the inevitable and ubiquitous stressors of the social and physical environment.

This was his ‘Salutogenic Model of Health’ (SMH) and the entirety of this initial book.

Eight years later, what was intended as his revised edition, ended up a completely different treatise and a peak in his career. Unravelling the Mystery of Health (1987) was hugely successful with its broad audience and the introduction and explanation of his ‘Sense of Coherence’ concept, being the core of SMH.

As well as including the element of meaningfulness, Antonovsky described this coherence as, “A global orientation that expresses the extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic, feeling of confidence that one’s internal and external environments are predictable and that there is a high probability that things will work out as well as can reasonably be expected.”

Quite a mouthful; and with it an intrinsic sense of truth.

It’s a view whereupon wellbeing necessitates a strong sense of coherence, a dynamic conducive to cultural stability, wealth, ego, support structures and the like.

Were a person ranked, the higher they are on this continuum, the more likely that life experiences strengthen this crucial component. The lower on the scale is where inconsistencies, overload and exclusionthe are more prevalent. It’s an orientation that means life is less manageable, less understood, and less meaningful: with huge consequences in the ability to venture through the world in robust health.

As does whatever may be going on in our mouth.

And bad things have been going on In there for a long time. Scientific analysis of the remains of a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal found the bacteria-like organism Methanobrevibacter oralis in the calcified dental plaque.

It proved two things: its association with gum disease in modern humans; and with the last common ancestor being around 120,000 years ago, it was an inter-species transmission between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens – most likely through kissing.

This recent news is mind-blowing on many levels. (Particularly since teenagers think they invented it.)

Not only does it prove inter-species interaction, it shows how biologically prone we are to our oral health being easily altered.

Without the professional care of six-monthly appointments with your dentist it’s impossible to keep vulnerabilities of the mouth in check. Untreated oral health issues like cavities and gum inflammation can be the precursors to a burden of chronic disease.

In its severe form, gum disease is periodontitis; the results of which are recessive gums, tooth loss and jawbone disintegration. If that’s not bad enough, it comes with an increased risk of serious health complications that include autoimmune, cardiovascular and cardiometabilic illnesses – being the likes of stroke, heart attack, diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Simply brushing your teeth is not the answer to proper dental care. With neglected oral issues also being linked to mental and emotional issues like Alzheimer’s disease and depression, it’s imperative to take it seriously.

WHO broadened the definition of health. Antonovsky gave us the salutogenic paradigm that life is chaotic, and how we experience that is what shapes the complexities of personal resilience and wellbeing.

Both were persuaded into thinking about the rarity of being completely healthy. At any given point in time there is mysterious movement between being ill, or well. The important focus is what moves each of us to the better outcome.

It’s a lot to digest.

Chew it over. And see your dentist.


The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. Pitt Street Dental Centre does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the content.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional personal diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental or medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read or seen on the Site.

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