How oral health can make a lifetime impact
One of the reasons I chose dentistry as a career was that I wanted to make a difference in people's lives. To be honest, in the beginning, I never dreamt just how profoundly true this statement would turn out to be.
To many who see a dentist as the last person in the world they want to visit, you would find it hard to believe how this would be possible, so I wanted to share a few stories and experiences I have had over the years about how oral health has transformed people’s lives.
The first story I would like to share is very close to my heart, as it involves my own children.
Building a foundation in holistic dentistry
About 15 years ago when we were starting a family, I was thinking about my children's future needs with regards to orthodontics. I have always felt strongly about avoiding removals whenever possible to avoid the negative effects this can have on facial profiles and I was reluctant to have my kid's healthy teeth removed to correct their bite.
So, I started to seek further training in orthodontics and over the years I developed a very keen interest in this aspect of dentistry. As time progressed, I enrolled in a 2-year programme in Australia with Dr Derek Mahony on full-face orthodontics. Now, to be fair, it was my eldest child's treatment that I had in mind as I boarded the plane for that first trip to Sydney.
What I didn't expect to happen was the enlightenment I received in this first module, which focused heavily on the early stages of growth and development. Learning about how the functional effects of how we breathe, and swallow, directly affect the shape of not only our facial profile but also the position and shape of our jaws and teeth changed the path of my entire career.
Up until this point, I truly believed that genetics determined the outcome and position of our teeth. I was so wrong.
It’s all connected
We had amazing presentations from lactation nurses, orthodontists, speech therapists, ear nose and throat specialists, allergy specialists… It was all focused on the airway and how vital it is to good facial and dental development, as well as the effects it can have on our overall health and wellbeing.
I learned just how deeply our facial development, dental development, and general health are connected to each other through our airways.
Large adenoids and tonsils, as well as functional habits such as finger and thumb sucking, have a massive effect during development. This can directly affect how we swallow and how we breathe, whether it be through our nose with our lips together, which is normal, or through our mouth, which is not.
At rest ideally, we should all have our lips together and breathe through our nose. This allows our tongue to rest in the top of our mouth which creates a nice upper jaw shape and the correct swallow pattern. It also lets our nasal cavity warm and filter the air we breathe, as well as enrich it with nitric oxide which improves its ability to carry oxygenated blood to our muscles and brain.
As I sat captivated, all I could think about was my 5-year-old son Luca and all the patients I had seen over the years with misshapen jaws, long facial growth patterns, deep overbites, open bites, incorrect swallow patterns, and speech difficulties. By the time we are adults, many of these challenges can only be corrected with facial and jaw surgery.
The truth hit home
When Luca was three years old, we almost lost him to meningitis.
Although we were lucky and he recovered well, it left him with over-developed swollen adenoids and tonsils. This caused him to begin mouth-breathing and he would snore at night. He was always tired and struggled to focus well during the day.
On my return home from Australia, I rushed into Luca’s room and, sure enough, he was snoring away and mouth-breathing. But now, I understood exactly what these signs meant for the future of his oral and general health. I also knew how to set them on the right path.
In those few moments, as I looked at my son both of our lives were changed.
As a result of everything I had recently discovered and continued to learn over the following years, I have been able to share and apply this knowledge to help so many children.
The direct and life-changing effects I made for my son has, and will continue to have, a positive impact on the rest of his life.
I feel extremely privileged to have been able to help so many people over the years. When we finish a case and compare the before and after photos, we don’t just see how straight the teeth are, but how much the facial profiles have corrected during the growth stages. I must pinch myself and say, “were we really able to do this?”. These kids’ improved ability to eat and breathe, combined with their amazing new smile and confidence sometimes leaves me absolutely speechless even after so many years.