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Dental Care for Overall Health

As a dentist, I often hear the phrase, “It’s not that I hate you, I just hate coming to the dentist. I remember when I was a child and my dentist…” It’s not exactly an ego booster but it is a sentiment that we as dentists hear at least weekly and we grow to understand it’s not personal.

Dentistry has made amazing advances over the past several decades. These advances have made it so a visit to the dentist does not have to be the dreaded experience portrayed in Little Shop of Horrors; in fact, it can be a completely comfortable experience regardless of the procedure. In my office, we subscribe to the mantra that “pain is not an option,” because in dentistry today, we do have an option for eliminating discomfort in virtually every procedure we perform through a number of different methods. Dr. Ted Byers and I hope to tell you about all of the exciting advances in dentistry in the coming months.

Dentistry today is not only about your oral health but your mouth’s correlation to the overall health of your entire body. The links between oral health and your overall health are well documented in scientific research. In April 2012, the American Heart Association published a statement supporting previous research that showed a link between heart disease and periodontal disease (gum disease). Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bones that support teeth and it is the major cause of tooth loss in adults in the United States. The American Dental Association believes that the most important thing you can do to avoid gum disease and maintain good oral health (including the prevention of cavities) is to brush twice a day, clean between teeth with dental floss daily, eat a balanced diet that limits sugary snacks and visit your dentist regularly for exams and professional cleanings.

Diabetes is quickly becoming an epidemic in the United States and may become one of the costliest diseases that we deal with in the future of our country. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to process sugar. The resulting high blood sugar can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body. Recent research suggests that the connection between gum disease and diabetes goes both ways. On one hand, because of the lowered resistance to infection and a compromised healing process, gum disease appears to be more frequent and more severe among those with diabetes. As stated earlier, tooth loss is associated with gum disease and with the higher prevalence of gum disease, we see more tooth loss in patients with diabetes, which compromises their ability to eat properly and further aggravates their diabetic condition – creating a downward spiral. Treating gum disease in patients with diabetes can help control blood sugar to more optimal levels. Good oral hygiene habits, including regular professional cleanings at the dental office, are important if you are to control the progression of gum disease and other oral health problems.

In the future, we hope to tell you more about other advances that have been made in dentistry, including new ways of making crowns (caps), tooth implant options, treatment for TMJ issues, treatments for chronic headache sufferers, new diagnostic equipment, dentures in as little as two visits and much more.

These innovations will truly make your visit to the dentist more pleasurable and allow you develop a strategy for a lifetime of oral health so you may keep your teeth for the rest of your life, function well, smile often and be pain free.


Dr Bryan Shanahan attended NAU and has practiced general dentistry in Flagstaff for over 20 years. He can be reached at

Dr. Ted Byers has practiced general dentistry in Sedona for 16 years before retiring. Dr Byers recently began practicing with Dr Bryan Shanahan in Flagstaff.

By Bryan Shanahan, DDS and Ted Byers, DDS



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