Responsibility and Dental Health

by Dr Rachel Hall B.Ch.D(Uni Leeds), LDSRCS(Eng), MACNEM, Dental Surgeon, Brisbane, Australia

Dentistry has always aimed to focus on prevention of oral disease rather than solely treatment alone. We all know that too much sugar causes tooth decay and that to maintain the health of our teeth and gums it is important to brush and floss regularly. Our role as dental professionals shifted from drillers and fillers to health care educators where we told our patients how to clean their teeth and advised them to cut down on sugar. However, this culture shift needs to be taken further as despite our efforts, rates of dental decay and oral health issues are again on the increase.

Dental professionals are not the gatekeepers of our patients’ health: the patients are. A six monthly or yearly check-up and clean with a filling or two when needed is disease management via treatment, not preventive care. Would you be happy if every time you visited your GP you required a minor surgical procedure? I think not.

As dentists our aim should be to be involved as partners in people’s health care, advising patients on their responsibility for their own oral health. After all, they are the ones who every day of their life choose what to eat and drink, how they live, how often they brush and floss and how effectively they do it. We cannot physically be there to guide them every second of the day and the thinking that a couple of hours a year of dental visits will address their dental health issues is both arrogant and disempowering. We need to change how we respond to the dental needs of our patients and empower them to take responsibility for their own wellbeing.

This requires a shift in our level of communication and our approach to what wellbeing and health really mean. Simple oral health messages such as, ‘don’t eat sweets’ and, ‘brush your teeth after meals’, are now ludicrously questionable and ineffectual. Yet, these are the apparent clichés on which the dentist-patient relationship has been built and maintained. This must change. There will always be an element of a dentist-patient relationship because our training teaches us to offer advice and diagnosis to help and treat our patients. But if we really are to make a shift in dental care then we need to see our role more as  managing patients’ expectations and fostering the philosophy that they are as much in charge of their own oral health destiny as we are, in fact more so. Thus, the way the patient cares for themselves, what they choose to eat and drink, how they live and lifestyle factors will play an increasingly important part of our work. This change in approach does however require us to develop a deeper understanding of health, nutrition and lifestyle impacts on oral health and a more holistic approach to dental care.

Unfortunately, this is where modern dentistry and even holistic dentistry fall short as there is more to illness, disease and healing than we currently know and unfortunately, we do not have the solutions. It appears that as human beings there is a great deal more to us than initially thought and despite our best efforts and medical advancements, dental health seems to be on the decline. We as dental professionals should be willing to admit that we don’t have all the answers. Perhaps then, through this level of humbleness, we would be open to admit that there is a missing link and seek new approaches to health and healing and adopt an approach that allowed for a marriage of science, healing and complementary care that addresses the physical, biochemical, emotional and energetic aspects of health.

The concept that we have a responsibility for our own choices, health and self-care and that we are more than simply flesh and bone are part of the presentations of the Esoteric Wisdom which apply an understanding of the body and the human situation to our daily life. This awareness, as presented at length by Serge Benhayon, makes for a common sense approach to health and wellbeing that could easily be incorporated into a new model of dental care, where the way we live day to day and the state of our being are just as important as brushing and flossing our teeth.

What would happen if patients understood their responsibility and role in their own self-care and health and were able to see that dentistry was merely there to support them? What would occur if the prop of blaming the professional is removed? And what if the excuse of having regular check-ups as a justification for a lack of regular and effective self-care no longer held sway? Then, to what extent would patients, empowered with the knowledge that their oral health and wellbeing is now in their own hands, decide they are willing to take responsibility and implement lifestyle changes?

202 thoughts on “Responsibility and Dental Health

  1. I agree – the patient participation is the key in any medicine. I go to my dentist every six month and I am amazed at how each time there seems to be something new being introduced to assist more effective treatment, but that would never mean that I no longer have to brush my teeth until my next check-up. I am constantly reminded that it is how I take care of myself every day that makes it different, and not the most advanced technology or a newest drug. It is such a blessing to find a doctor who are willing to spend time and explain things and answer questions so that we understand how empowering it is to be taking responsibility for our own well-being.

  2. The idea that merely brushing and flossing our teeth regularly is enough to prevent tooth issues has certainly not held true for me personally, as I have had many teeth and gum issues even though I had been cleaning regularly. But what I have noticed is that there definitely is a correlation between the times I had been pushing my body a lot at work or at home and not really taking care to get enough sleep and listen to when my body needed rest, I would develop gum issues like bleeding or receding gums. This seems to obviously be caused by non-physical means, and even my dentist was perplexed as to why it was happening despite my good oral hygiene.

  3. It is exceedingly evident the the current model of responsibility being about taking on responsibility of others is not working. It leaves us feeling exhausted and of full of bitterness and resentment. Could this be the one realisation we need to come too for us to begin to view self responsibility as the corner stone to halting humanity’s woes.

  4. It’s only when we start to get that self-care is not just a token gesture when we feel like it, but part of our daily life and a way of doing things, not just self-caring activities, that things truly start to change. As we take better care of ourselves, we get to see all the many, tiny ways that we haven’t bothered to look after ourselves. Why does it matter? Because if we don’t care about ourselves, then we very likely don’t care much about others, either. I remember when I first met the Benhayons and I thought they were so arrogant because they really looked after themselves. Now I see that it was my own disregard and lack of care that had got me so annoyed and that was been shown up by what they were reflecting to me. It was uncomfortable, but it was also an opportunity to get honest about how I was living, and start to change it.

  5. It’s tempting to see our teeth as icing on the cake, as small details in the picture of life which if need be, can be faked. Apart from the fact that this philosophy will cost you a lot, it’s also missing in a big way, the truth. Our teeth are a beautiful reflection of how we lead our life, our choices today and past. They show how we are choosing to be and unlock the fact that they are not special but every body part has this potential. They just show us how it’s not the regularity or products used but the quality we choose. Thank you Rachel for this up close and personal examination of the beauty of teeth.

  6. I love the concept of the marriage of science, healing and complementary care to provide a holistic approach to health that offer messages that then empower people to make choices based on a greater understanding of the impact of their choices. No ill health, dental or otherwise, should be the responsibility of the professional to fix but rather for the patient to be taking responsibility for through their own self care… and together, with the support of professionals, addressing what arises from a holistic viewpoint.

  7. When everyone starts to understand and accept that our own health care is our own responsibility the burden on the already overwhelmed health care system will start to lighten up.

  8. When it comes to caring for our body prevention is so much more effective than having to correct our unwise choices and lack of care.

  9. We often rely on dentists to keep our teeth healthy and fix any problems that we have, yet the responsibility really lies with us as individuals to take care of our teeth, I have been taking more care over the cleaning of my teeth, and it has made me more responsible in other areas of my life too.

  10. I have started working in a medical clinic and am surprised, shocked at the amount of people who come in and don’t see a dentist regularly. When I was growing up I always went to the dentist regularly and at the time was resentful about going – and never enjoyed the whole experience but since beginning to initiate my own dental visits with a Dentist I know and trust it has been far more enjoyable and is adding value to my health. If we were taught how to value ourselves than a lot of things like going to the dentist, flossing, eating correctly etc would be our lived nature and not seen as the ‘right’ or ‘ideal’ things to do.

  11. I for one, once misunderstood my responsibility for my own oral health between routine appointments, would go for months or a year without seeing a dentist, and considered dental appointment reminder letters an irritation. I have been there, lost in life, neglecting self. That’s all changed now and I have a new understanding of oral health: taking care of my teeth is a daily practice, not just brushing and flossing my teeth but also in my choice of food and drink. It took an inspiring dentist, attending Universal Medicine presentations and commitment to self care to get me to where I am now.

  12. This is very true Rachel, taking responsibility for our oral health is far more than brushing twice a day and visiting the dentist. The care we take to floss properly, the choice of food and drink on a daily basis and the care and precision with brushing are all important aspect of our own self-care, determining substantially how much we might then have to undergo more expensive and extensive dental work.

  13. It actually all comes down to us all being responsible for our own health and is the point we all have to humble down to. We cannot put the responsibility of our health into the hands of our GP, our dentist or the health care system in our societies in general as these are there to support us in our wellbeing but are absolutely not responsible for it.

  14. Taking responsibility for our health is such an important element that is over looked and ignore. I know I have put off seeing my dentist because I simply used to think it didn’t matter. Now I realise you can’t have one area of your body well nurtured and looked after while an other area is ignored. Our health is every aspect of our body and then this continues into every aspect of our lives, not one more important than the other.

  15. I recall in my twenties and thirties rarely going to the dentist because I thought it was too expensive. Whilst it may well be, but the question I now ask myself why was it expensive? I know that the more I have disregarded my teeth (and my health as our teeth and gums are a reflection of our whole body’s health, not just our teeth), the more expensive my dental visits. I have done a complete turn around when it comes to caring for my teeth, and they are showing me that caring for them pays.

  16. In my teens I had loads of fillings. In my twenties and thirties I had tons of dental issues particularly gum disease. I visited a dental hospital every three months for over 10 years before together we managed to change things back to a healthy mouth. Me learning my responsibility was a key part in this and me committing to a regime that takes around 10 minutes a day no matter how tired I may be feeling, is key to maintaining the health.

  17. A great article Rachel, highlighting that going to the dentist is a great support but ultimately the patient holds the responsibility for their ensuring daily lifestyle choices are supporting good oral health and the rest of the body.

  18. There is huge difference between doing a job routinely and being of service to another as an integral part of the work you do. True dentists care and are honest enough to say this is what I can do for you, this is what you can do for yourself. Dentists and patients need to be re-educated on the true purpose and nature of their relationship and see it as one that works best when based on partnership.

  19. ‘The way we live day to day and the state of our being are just as important as brushing and flossing our teeth’. That is a great observation Rachel and is really making me wonder why we place more and less importance of different parts of our life. Does not all that we do and feel add up to one life?

  20. You offer so much wisdom Rachel. How wonderful to have you as a practitioner, offering so much more than a routine check up.

  21. So it is possible the professional (e.g. dentist and doctor) can offer more to the patient than the ‘do’s and don’t’ and that the ‘patient’ can take more responsibility for their part in their own health. Both can be done through the livingness … the quality of how we live consistently and also the choices we make. Ultimately the responsibility of our health always lays within our own hands and I feel this is still something we have to truly learn.

  22. I agree with what you have shared here Rachel Hall – we are the gatekeepers of our own dental health. It is so interesting to read the levels of detail and responsibility that go into dental care that obviously reflect what parts of our lives we are choosing to examine more closely or not. The whole is affected, with no doubt and the call here is to see why we choose the same currents of behaviour that go far beyond whether we are flossing and brushing daily.

  23. “Would you be happy if every time you visited your GP you required a minor surgical procedure? I think not.” Such a great thought provoking line, as yes, it is for some normal to have every time they go to the dentist a filling done, which is actually a tooth that is ill and imbalanced where the illness is surgically removed. Because our mouth is connected to our whole body, it makes sense that if there is illness present somewhere in the body it does have an effect on the whole body, plus it can come from the whole and how we are we with our whole body. It is, as you say, time to start to see that it is not just about brushing our teeth to keep our teeth healthy, but equally important to care for our body and self as a whole.

  24. Bringing back self responsibility is very important and necessary, ‘The concept that we have a responsibility for our own choices, health and self-care and that we are more than simply flesh and bone are part of the presentations of the Esoteric Wisdom’.

  25. I agree Rachel the way we live day to day, our choices and the state of our being are as important a responsibility as brushing and flossing our teeth. In building a quality of care and looking after our own health we empower ourselves to make lifestyle changes that truly support us.

  26. Awesome blog, very educational. I agree with you Rachel, I was one to act in this irresponsible way, especially towards flossing. The shift for me was just that I aspired to be attentive to taking deeper care for myself.

  27. From experience it does feel like relying solely on the medical professions something is lacking in providing a whole form of healing whatever our body may be experiencing in terms of illness and disease. I had a dentist make a comment about bruxation – A clenching of the jaw or grinding of the teeth that could be seen in the ridges in my tongue. She offered me a mouth guard to wear while I slept and had I relied on this nothing would change. Instead my question to the offer was ‘What is the reason I would be clenching my jaw to such a degree that resulted in this? With this question I started to look at my life and look at the areas in life where I clench and tense up and through working with this I now have much less bruxation, in fact I didn’t even know how much less until I had a dental operation where I was numbed to the clenching to keep the bite pads in my mouth and saw the deep groves on my tongue! If I do now it is a big red light flashing to look at the reactions in myself in that particular moment, situation or day.

  28. True medicine is how we live everyday, in every moment. The medical profession wouldn’t have to be focused around prevention, treatment, rescuing and fixing and maintenance if everyone knew this fact. Although, we DO get sick and the body does need to express corrections from the ills that we have lived, so the medical profession is very much needed but should not be weighted down by the lack of regard that we are choosing to live when our lives could be totally medicinal.

  29. Great to hear a dentist advocating the need for patients to take responsibility for their own dental health. The last time I went to the dentist, I said to the hygienist that there was one night where I had not flossed because I was too tired and decided I would floss in the morning instead. Then in the morning there I noticed some calculus that couldn’t be removed by flossing. My hygienist said don’t worry, that is what I am here for. I said no, it is up to me to play my part and not disregard my self just because you can fix it.

  30. Our teeth reflect our choices, both past and present, of how we are choosing to live. When we do not want to take responsibility for our ill choices we are all too ready to hand this responsibility over to the dentist under the guise that we are looking after our teeth (by making regular appointments) when really we are just expecting someone else to fix the mess we have made by choosing to live in a way that does not support our health and vitality. It is little wonder that dentists have one of the highest rates of suicide amongst professions…that’s a lot that we are dumping on them. Great article Rachel Hall.

  31. Thank you Rachel. Our teeth are part of our body and therefore we have a responsibility for the health of our teeth and gums as we do for all of our body.

  32. Thank you Rachel. Ultimately every one of us is responsible for our own health and wellbeing. Yes, we have the support of healthcare professionals but that’s what it is – support.

  33. For many years I avoided going to the dentist, but soon realised that if I am truly to connect to a deeper level of self care, I need to look at all parts of my body and not ignore any. My visit to the dentist was amazing it allowed me to look at my teeth in a completely different way. I changed my way of cleaning, combined with changes I had already made in my life, my teeth feel healthier than ever before. I have regular appointments booked to support my on going care.

  34. As it always has been is the responsibility for our health in our own hands. But to me we have been conveniently been avoiding this by handing over that responsibility to our health professionals instead, imagening ourselves a convenient life in irresponsibility.

  35. It is so true, we go to the dentist once a year, perhaps twice in order to deal with the consequences of our daily choices, often negating the fact that we have been consuming foods that directly impact our mouths many times each day in between. There is an immediate tension, how badly am I going to be told off, will what you are going to do hurt? Will it cost a lot? There is so much more, we as patients, can bring to our own oral hygiene by considering ourselves more responsible in our choices. I remind myself of this every day!!

  36. ‘Responsibility’ is a word we have been masterful at shirking, isn’t it… How strong is the preference to ‘go to the dentist’, for example, have that person perform the best treatment and ‘fix’ what they can under the circumstances, and then we go back to our merry way of the ‘same old’, without a second thought of HOW the ‘same old’ may have been contributing to our problem(s) in the first place… Phew…
    It is beyond heartening to hear of a health professional who takes every step at her disposal in supporting her patients, and yet, who offers them the greatest gift there is – that such responsibility rests with the self, and should never be palmed off to another, for this is enormously retarding to our own growth (and health, no doubt).

  37. Very well said Rachel Hall, and clearly from your immense depth of experience. The thing that strikes me, is how rare it is to hear a medical professional call for a deeper approach, as you describe – from the humble admission that as things stand, the medical model does not have ‘all the answers’.
    It is only through such humility, and a letting go of the arrogance held by many in the medical profession (said with the utmost respect, but it is clearly there…), that the true understanding of what is causing the scale of our collective malaise can be entered into. And the marriage of western medicine and esoteric medicine can occur – as you yourself are clearly embracing. Thank-you.

  38. We need to discern which dentists to say yes to. I’m reminded of a time when I didn’t take care of my self and consequently put up with shoddy treatment from medical practitioners. I had a dentist at the end of his career, going through the motions of dentistry, tired and disinterested. I knew the level of care was poor, but initially did nothing despite the experience of repeat appointments as fillings dropped out and needed to be re-filled. This changed when I changed, felt I deserved better and searched until I found a dentist that cared about me and my teeth. When we self care, we want the same from health practitioners and will not accept treatment that is less or disregarding.

  39. Well said Rachel. lt is our responsibility. We need to appreciate this vessel and maintain it as best we can. lt is our call. Truly empowering. To step up to this responsibility and take charge, lovingly.

  40. The relationship we have with health practitioners is important. It’s gorgeous to meet a dentist that relates you you as a person first meets and treats you as a human being (like I have), and is not just concerned with your teeth.

  41. ‘What would happen if patients understood their responsibility and role in their own self-care and health and were able to see that dentistry was merely there to support them? ‘ It’s the relationship we have with our teeth between dental appointments that counts, not the visit itself. The same can be said of sessions with esoteric health practitioners, the session offers a marker, but is never ‘it’, how we live between sessions is where true healing takes place.

  42. Reading this blog offers me a greater awareness of the whole. How I choose to brush my teeth, flossing, the choice of foods and drinks I consume, my commitment to my teeth and seeing my dentist, how I feel about my teeth etc all have an impact on my teeth. It is impossible to separate a visit to my dentist and all my choices I have made in between the appointments. Ultimately it is my responsibility to love and care for my teeth.

  43. Great to see a dentist writing in this way Rachel, “What would happen if patients understood their responsibility and role in their own self-care and health and were able to see that dentistry was merely there to support them?” Not the answer to our problems but a support in how we care, I love the direction and attitude from this. We can take this to how we care for ourselves overall and then out to how we care about everything as this is a great way to look at how we are. ‘What would happen if we understood our responsibility and role in our own self-care and health and were about to see that everything else was merely there to support us?’

  44. I have recently found a great dentist all about making the patient responsible for their own oral health. I got to see very clearly where I have neglected to be self responsible with my teeth and mouth, where I had gotten a bit perfunctory and taking things for granted. My awareness and care for my teeth has expanded enormously and with this I am noticing changes in other areas of my life too, more attention to detail being one.

  45. What would happen if we more regularly stopped to clock our health? rather than leaving it to someone else to tell us in six-month, one month, every two weeks gaps? This is what the Our Cycles app has really been supporting me in reflecting on as with this check-in with how I feel, my moods and the goings on in my body I have become aware that how I live does change how this marker changes. But the longer we leave this gap between check-in’s the more lost, confused, blaming and expecting others to tell us or fix our conditions for us becomes the norm.

  46. After your adult teeth have come through, you then only have one set of teeth for your life. Stuff up, ruin them, allow them to decay and you’re done. No 2nd chances. Smash your car, you can get a new one. Lose your phone – get a new one…But your teeth – a great reflection of our responsibility.

  47. The more we connect to our body and how we truly feel, the more we build our awareness to take responsibility for our own health so that making lifestyle changes is a simple and natural process of refinement the deeper level of love we allow ourselves to connect and surrender to.

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