Tuesday, April 15, 2008

From Wood to Titanium: Dental Professionals’ Opinions on Tooth Replacement

As in a previous post, this week I decided to venture into the Blogosphere to see what the professionals in the dental world were discussing. A lack of “hot topics” made my search quite uneventful however I was able to find some very interesting information concerning tooth replacement. While the majority of the population will eventually lose a permanent tooth, modern dentists have come up with numerous, effective ways to replace dentition. That being said, professionals must decide what method to perform in order to restore functionality in the mouth. Common knowledge dictates that when enough teeth are missing, typically in elderly citizens, dentures (image to the right) will be used to help chew and speak. But, this begs the question as to what dentists do when the patient needing to restore their teeth is not aged, and perhaps does not need the majority of their teeth substituted. As covered previously, a common alternative is a dental implant. Conversely in the instance that a tooth is knocked out (bottom left image shows dramatization of this), and the individual was able to recover it, most experts suggest reimplantation. My interest in both dentures and reimplantation spurred a blog search for the topics, and I was able to find two current posts discussing each of the issues. The first post was entitled “Removable Partial Dentures and Complete Dentures” featured on the blog DMDstudent.com. The author is a dental student at Temple University in Arizona. The post discusses a project he is making for dental school as well as some tips on making dentures. His knowledge on the subject will give me great insight with any questions I have. The second post I discovered is called, “Intentional Reimplantation” written by Doctor Jason Hales. He discusses a real-life experience with a patient losing a tooth, and the reasoning, and success from reimplanting it. I posted insightful comments on both blogs, and have included them below for convenience.

“Removable Partial Dentures and Complete Dentures”

First off, let me congratulate you on a wonderful blog and post. I find the information I read on your page to be incredibly helpful and valuable. As a future dental student, I am learning a lot about what it truly takes to succeed in dental school, as well as what is expected of you. In this post when you talk about how much the project you are working on will affect your grade, it gives me more insight concerning the importance of lab assignments, and what a good finished product looks like. In summary, personal articles such as this are what make me visit your blog frequently. I chose to comment on this specific post however because it brought up numerous questions which I believe you could answer. You mention when creating dentures for a patient who has several missing teeth, the keys are retention, stability, and support. Obviously, partials that meet these requirements will be successful and will help a patient thrive. I wonder though, if dentures are always the most viable option. As there is so much advancement in implant technology, will dentists make a movement towards more implants and away from dentures, or is it not worth the expense, especially for older people to substitute missing teeth with implants? If so, what are the keys to successful implants and are they similar to those of dentures? Although I do have a fair amount of dental knowledge, I still consider myself a layman in terms of this subject, and the practicality of implants over dentures. While I know that income is something that greatly effects a patient’s decision on what type of procedure they would like (for instance amalgam versus composite fillings), I am curious as to what you believe are key factors when deciding what technique to use. I find the choices that dentists and patients have to make together a very interesting subject, and was curious as to whether there is a debate on what ways teeth should be replaced. While it depends largely on age and income, what other factors can influence the decision?

“Intentional Reimplantation”

Thank you for writing this post on a most interesting and engaging topic. While I am in no way an endodontist or even a dentist, I am hoping to become one, and this blog as well as posts similar to this one inspire me even more to succeed at my goal. As a very athletic person and a college student, I have seen young people lose or chip teeth all too often. As many of my friends know I am interested in dentistry, in turn I am constantly barraged with questions about why teeth cannot simply be “shoved back in” when they fall out. After reading the article, I can explain that factors such as the amount of time the tooth is out of the mouth, damage to the periodontal ligament, and contamination by bacteria can all affect the ability of a dentist to reimplant a tooth. As a layman I was curious about what traditional endodontic surgeries and conditions must be avoided or present in order for a professional to support intentional reimplantation. The specific incident that you address covered this in addition to being very exciting to read. It showed me that dentists are truly required to think on their feet, and that when the unexpected happens one must act quickly and calmly. The idea of being quick on your feet makes me wonder how modern the idea of intentional reimplantation is. While it seems that the process could be very old-fashioned, even back to the times where doctors worked in unclean environments, it also seems very progressive and new. This then creates a new question, whether or not the method is a viable alternative to tooth replacement by implant or bridge. Obviously, as previously mentioned, there are certain criteria for the process to take place, but are these criteria easily met? And if so, are they less specific or more specific than choosing to get an implant? Moreover, are there other factors that can affect the situation such as income and age? I seem to find that the world of dentistry has numerous ways to accomplish the same task, and I am curious in this instance which is generally superior.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Maintaining a Healthy Heart: It Starts With a Healthy Smile

Throughout this decade, medical researchers have run numerous studies and attempted to form conclusions about the relationship between unhealthy gums and an increased risk of heart problems. A recently published and very convincing inquiry shows that in men less than sixty years of age, periodontal disease, or periodontitis (pictured right), is clearly associated with a rise in coronary heart disease. While this is not the first study of its kind, it is unique in that it accounts for the differences in weight, income, and overall health of subjects, and still augments the ever increasing data supporting more extensive dental care for a decrease in possible cardio troubles. Although it is not completely common for those who do not tend to their gums and teeth to have heart problems, maintaining a healthy mouth is important for avoiding cardio related ailments because of the susceptibility to sicknesses that periodontal disease can cause, and because of the proven research that depicts people are more likely to get heart problems with an unhealthy mouth.

According to a report by the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one-hundred and sixty million people suffer from high blood pressure, cerebrovascular disease (leading to stroke), cholesterol levels requiring medical attention and coronary heart disease in the United States alone. All of these epidemics in the population affect the pulmonary system as well as cardio health. It is important to recognize the plethora of factors that can lead to heart aliments to illustrate that poor dental health is not the only cause. The public must understand that because poor oral conditions can result in other harms to the body, it is not necessarily the cause. Realize that an older person with coronary heart disease and overall poor bodily health, will be more prone to lose their teeth than an in shape individual of the same age. Therefore, a bias can be seen from the dental community’s standpoint because if patients are more fearful of other health issues due to inadequate dental maintenance, they would almost certainly increase their visits to the dentist. This would be favorable to dental professionals because more patient appointments means more capital. While this is a motivating factor for dentists to support the theory of periodontitis affecting heart wellbeing, the actual science behind the disease confidently supports the idea of more extensive oral care.

In order to understand the effects of periodontal disease, one must first understand what anatomical changes occur. In short summary, the main effect of the disease is the recession of the gum line around the teeth. Essentially bacteria cause an infection that destroys the bone and fibers which secure teeth to the jaw. The result is the separation of gums from around the enamel of the tooth, and the formation of deep dental pockets. In turn, these pockets are then vulnerable to fill with plaque and food particles, creating additional bacterial infections. More gingival tissue is destroyed and teeth become loose. Inflammation occurs due to byproducts of the infection entering the bloodstream and being eradicated by the body’s immune system and gums then turn red and become puffy. A significant problem with this mechanism is that some of the disease fighting agents the body produces, such as C reactive protein (graphic to the left), also inflame arteries that can stiffen and promote blood clots and arteriosclerosis. Studies have shown that the antibodies used to combat the bacteria of periodontitis are only produced for that reason, and typically are not found in the mouth. With all the possibilities for detrimental effects on cardio health from oral problems, it is simple to see why dentists are stressing dental wellbeing.

As much research has shown, maintaining high oral standards is not only beneficial to the mouth, but to the body as a whole. Merely by brushing and flossing the recommended amount of times per day, a person can avoid serious conditions such as stroke, myocardial infarction, and high blood pressure. By preventing the gum line from receding, and preserving adult teeth the risk of dangerous bacteria infiltrating the blood stream via the mouth is severely reduced. As doctor Kenneth Bueltmann (former president of the American Academy of Periodontology) said after reading an early research report about the relatedness of periodontal health to cardiovascular diseases, "This data clearly stresses the importance of regular dental checkups to ensure a healthy, diseased-free mouth." Although more research should be conducted so that the specifics of the relationship can be found, the current steps being taken are necessary and will lead to more breakthroughs on the topic.

If more effort is put into finding the exact correlation between good oral health and good overall health, future medical professionals will have an extraordinary understanding of the interconnections of the body. Current research provides a good deal of evidence to support further research in medical treatments that target multiple parts of the body at once. Not only will these new treatments be more efficient at curing health problems, but they will also teach people about the phenomenal power of their own bodies. The more we learn about ourselves, the better equipped we will be in the fight against deadly diseases and syndromes in the future. Perhaps a time will come when a simple investment in brushing one’s teeth could be the deciding factor in whether or not they will survive a deadly virus.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Homepage Improvements: Enhancing the Linkroll

Through careful examination of the World Wide Web, I find that the most superlative pages feature links to other websites of high caliber. I applied this principle to my own blog in an effort to add depth. As done in a previous post, I judged each website by the standard Webby Awards criteria and each blog by the IMSA philosophy on aptitude. These pages are now present in my linkroll to the right. One of the first pages I found was that of the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics which contains vital information about the profession of dentistry ranging from the number of dentists in the US, to the average salary, to probable future statistics. What the government site lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in hard to find, distinct information. Another government resource is the United States National Library of Medicine page about cosmetic dentistry. Though it features a simple design, it is easy to navigate, and has a plethora of topics and links allowing for a more comprehensive explanation of the subject. While avoiding generic names for websites is usually a good idea, one of similar caliber to the previous was Dentistry.com. It is deficient in design and utilizes the hyperlink too much, but features a consistently updated forum filled with many interesting discussions and facts. A blog that is kept very current and is insightful to those interested in dentistry is The Endo Blog. Written by professionals, without the public in mind, it can be difficult to understand without some prior dental knowledge, but those with enough will view it as interesting and informative as well as educational. Typical discussions are about rare dental cases, and new developments in the field.

For those interested in recent news and articles, the Evidence-Based Dentistry Journal(The most recent cover is the displayed image) on Nature.com is another excellent site. It does not engage the observer, but does feature free articles from the journal and allows online viewing. The same can be said about the
University of Southern California Dental School’s video archive. While only offering videos of different dental procedures and containing no external links or attractive decor, it is the only site I found that has this element of dentistry available to the public. The Dental Phobia Treatment Center homepage is also very public oriented. It addresses the issue of dental phobia honestly and methodically, which makes up for the under-utilization of online technologies. A blog with a similar issue is entitled Going Dental. While the articles are informative to read, the absence of additional features and consistent posting makes visiting the website frequently, unnecessary. On the other hand, a blog frequently updated is available on About.com and is know as Dental Care. The page has many advanced options, and the posts are well done, but the author is not a dental professional, even though she is very educated on the subject. The final item added was a link to Animated-Teeth.com. Though the color scheme and advertisements make it hard to navigate, with ample bonus material, and simple explanations of complex dental procedures (which I believe is key to understanding and appreciating dentistry), the site is top-notch. With the addition of all these new resources to my linkroll, I hope that my blog is now more of an asset to those curious about the world of dentistry.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Seeing Teeth: A Cure for Blindness?

Among my resear
ch of new and improving dental technologies, I stumbled upon a most inspiring story concerning a previously blind man who underwent a unique surgery to fix his sight. Due to the successful procedure, the 50-year old man regained enough of his vision to be able to recognize shapes and colors as well as count (using fingers) from a distance of two feet. I found this article fascinating, especially considering what kind of surgery he underwent, and how it was done. The procedure, Osteo-Odonto Keratoprosthesis (the final product is pictured to the left), is approximately a five month process requiring two surgeries and (in my opinion the worst part) the removal of a tooth. In slang terms it is often referred to as “Tooth-in-eye surgery,” needless to say it is much more complex than simply putting one’s tooth into their eye.

In order to better appreciate my stance on the surgery, one must first understand the complexities and stages of the process. One of the more interesting facts about the method is the numerous kinds of doctors and other medical professionals that are required to make it happen. Among the more prominent professionals are surgical ophthalmologists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, anesthesiologists, radiologists, and psychologists. By all of these different doctors combining their expertise and knowledge, this complex surgery is able to take place. As further medical advances are made (like this surgery) I think that the medical world is beginning to see how interrelated the whole body is, and how understanding overall health is the key to curing certain ailments. Cooperation between different medical fields is a necessity for research and development, and it is reassuring to see that such unity is happening currently. Even more inspiring is the idea that research like this has created a way for those considered blind to see again.

The Osteo-Odonto Keratoprosthesis process is a very painstaking, involved endeavor. First, the patients must undergo a series of tests from an optometrist, or other eye-care professional, to determine the severity of their sight loss and if the procedure will help cure them. Typically, only those patients with sight loss due to corneal damage, and damage to their outer eyes and eyelids are appropriate candidates. If deemed healthy and able to undergo the process, the first surgery is performed. In the primary stage an anesthesiologist is used to put the patient to sleep in an operating room. From there, an eye surgeon will then work on the injured eye, or eyes, and remove the scar tissue from the eye injury, the inner surface of the eyelid, and the corneal surface. Then an oral surgeon removes part of the inner lining of the cheek, and together with the help of the eye surgeon, transplants this tissue to the new surface of the eye. This is one of the more proactive parts of the procedure as it has two different professionals working together to heal the same patient. After the transplant, the oral surgeon will remove a canine or first premolar tooth (if the canine teeth are unusable for one reason or another), as well as a part of the jaw and adjoining ligaments. This tooth is then modified by drilling, to fit a plastic optical device (somewhat resembling a bolt, seen left) which is cemented to the tooth. Once this is completed, the entire apparatus is implanted into the cheek so that it can grow a new blood supply. The patient is then stitched up and given four months for their body to heal before the second surgery.

The second surgery is the more delicate procedure in that it must be meticulously done. The first step is to have the eye surgeon open the cheek lining that was placed on top of the eye. The surgeon then creates a circular opening in the cornea of the eye, where the tooth will be implanted. While creating the hole, the surgeon will also remove the inner contents of the eye such as the vitreous humor, which would affect the ability of the tooth apparatus to focus light. The tooth device, which by now has blood vessels pumping into it, is removed from the cheek, and implanted within the eye. The final stage is to place the cheek lining that was originally covering the eye around the implant, and to suture it closed to seal the eye cavity. After a week of recovery, the patient is able to see again because light will pass through the new implant, and focus on the retina.

Overall, the surgery is considered successful by numerous reliable sources. Based on the results of patients who underwent the procedure in a collaborative effort by the Singapore National Eye Centre and the National Dental Centre of Singapore, 66% of patients had successful treatments resulting in perfect vision. The remaining patients who were able to see all fell well within the range of functional vision. In a more in depth study by the Wessex Institute of Technology in Great Britain, the long-term effects of the surgery were explored. Surprisingly, the majority of patients who had successful surgeries had minimal complications in the years following. Obviously, there is the risk of rejection of the tissue from the body, which is a common occurrence with tissue and joint replacement procedures; however this possibility is minimized by the development of antibiotics that help the body more easily accept the implants. In any case, the study found that complications such as glaucoma arose after 5 years of sight in some patients (less than 33%), and major complications that required removal of the implant only occurred in 3.5% of patients as soon as 12 years after the surgery and as late as 20. With technological advances and more medical research, a surgery this successful might become common place in the near future.

Finding this article is very inspiring for anybody who is interested in the healthcare profession. To see that surgeons are starting to find new ways to help people, and are branching out from the traditional methods is exciting to witness. This surgery is a leap in the right direction for medical professionals. The human body is extraordinary in what it is able to accomplish on a daily basis. While much research is pointed toward new technology, such as radiation therapy for cancer, and nanotechnology, I feel that it is equally important for research to be directed inward. If human beings can manufacture their own cure for blindness, it lends itself to the idea that the human body holds more keys to medical advances than was originally thought. For those aspiring to be a part of this era in discovery of the potential of the human body, it is an exhilarating time, and is only made better by discoveries such as Osteo-Odonto Keratoprosthesis.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Forming a Strong Foundation: Applying Dental Techniques to the Blogosphere

In an effort to make my blog a more valuable resource to those interested in dentistry, I decided to search the World Wide Web and see what kind of websites I could find that would help expose readers to the massive amount of information there is concerning dentistry on the internet. Since a simple search will result in thousands of websites (many of which are haphazard and out-dated), I chose only the best ones, which I evaluated based on the Webby Awards criteria for internet excellence. However, my search was not limited to simply websites, I also explored any blogs related to dentistry that I could find and judged them based on the IMSA standards for blog proficiency. The result was a wonderful collection of websites (now present in my linkroll to the right) that give this blog breadth and depth of content. The first website I discovered was the homepage of the British Dental Association, and while lacking in the interactivity and visual design aspects (as it was merely articles and had an odd layout), I believe it is a great website because its content is made up of resources to educate both dent
ists and patients and is very informative, which accomplishes the overall goal. The next site I chose to link to, was the American College of Dentists website. While it is no where near aesthetically pleasing and simply offers information in text-based format, no other place on the internet is there such an in depth look at the ethical and leadership goals that dentists strive for in their work. This site was one of the first that I found in which most of its resources were for dentists themselves. I quickly discovered that this was also the case for the many websites, such as the homepage of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. While a typical, well-designed website overall, what makes this a great source is its section dedicated to the public that contains a plethora of links to answer questions and educate people concerning implants. Another site that is rich in links and information is that of the World Dental Federation, or FDI. This international organization has a site dedicated to education all people on the standards and goals for maintaining oral health. It is the most vast website I found containing this information and while not overly spectacular it is easy to navigate and helpful. Continuing on this theme of public friendly sites, another great website is the Academy of General Dentistry’s. It contains many links for dentists and the public alike, but is especially interactive in that it provides ways for users to subscribe to a news feed, enter a general discussion with others, and even listen to various pod casts. From this website, I was introduced to a well-maintained dental blog, entitled The Daily Grind. The author, a dentist in Florida, gives great information, and crafts well supported arguments based on his personal experience. It is a great site for an insiders look at dentistry from a dental professional. Similar to this blog, I also discovered another blog entitled DMDstudent.com, which is written by a current dental student, and is a great place for people in my situation who want to learn more about going through dental school. With consistent updates and strong links (as well as similar aesthetics to my blog), this is definitely a great source for those interested in dentistry. Another great website for this is Dental Town. Do not let the silly name mislead, the website is very interactive (through links, web casts, etc.) and provides up-to-date articles and relevant discussions on current dental news. After successfully finding these eight websites, I decided to change my search.

Turning my search from general dentistry to dental technology I stumbled upon some wonderful resources. The first was on the subject of the new CEREC technology. (CEREC is essentially is machine that takes a digital impression of the mouth before and after a crown preparation, and then uses that information to create a replacement crown, so that a patient can have a crown cemented the same day it is prepared. A CEREC machine is pictured in the graphic above) The CEREC website was clearly designed by a professional company as its functionality, abilities, and resources are all excellent. This helps to create a site that is far and away the best resource for CEREC on the web. However, this was still not the best site I discovered throughout my search. This honor goes to the British Dental Association’s 3D mouth website. By use of flash media, the site illustrates various dental conditions, procedures, as well as anatomy, all while being user-friendly and easily understood. This site makes me excited to learn about dentistry, which is something that none of the other sites accomplished so completely. With the addition of these sites to my link roll, I do believe that my blog has become a more informative, and comprehensive website concerning dentistry.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tooth Loss: Filling in the Gaps

Losing one's possessions can be both a good and a bad experience in today's world. For instance, losing weight is typically a happy occasion, but losing one's car keys is never an enjoyable experience. The same principle is true when discussing oral health. As a child, losing baby teeth is something to be celebrated (A magical fairy often comes late at night and trades an old tooth that will never be used again for legal tenders. That is cause for celebration in any circumstance). However, at an old age, losing teeth is an embarrassing and life-style changing affair (Corn on the cob is traded for apple sauce and other mushy foods). Luckily, for current dental patients replacing lost teeth is easier than ever before. Breakthroughs in technology provide a wide array of tooth restoration from implanting titanium, synthetic teeth directly into the jaw bone to a standard dental bridge that was invented during the height of the Roman Empire. Obviously, certain procedures can cost a patient more in addition to being more extensive. I was curious to see what kind of people in the United States lose their teeth, and what type of dental implant makes the most sense. Lucky for me, Google is a great search engine.
As I am a virgin to the blogosphere realm, I went exploring to see if there was a blog on the World Wide Web that addressed my curiosities concerning tooth loss. Expecting to find a single blog that was many years out of date, I was shocked when there were a plethora of posts and articles discussing all aspects of tooth loss (albeit the majority were out of date and plugging cosmetic dentistry, but a plethora nonetheless). The first blog that I discovered, World Dental, consists mostly of posts by writer, alias Alex Bo, who frequently updates the sire with dental news of all types. The pose i investigated, entitled "Replacing Missing Tooth with Dental Bridge" address the use of dental bridges as well as different types available to the public. The other blog I found, Fullosseous Flap's Dental Blog, shares the opinions of D.D.S. Gregory Cole, on any subject from dentistry to current politics. The post i was most intrigued by was entitled "Tooth Loss Statistics by State" and showed which state's citizens most commonly lost teeth, and also begged the question, why. I commented on both of these posts, sharing my stance on the topic and asking thought-provoking questions of the authors' The paragraphs following these are my actual comments.


First, I would like to say that this post was both informative and thorough. While I have obtained a wealth of knowledge about dental bridges, from reading your work I have learned even more. Replacing missing teeth is key to maintaining one’s dental health. Your discussion of the benefits of dental bridges, made me realize that besides fixing your bite, they also help to sustain the shape of your face, and prevent drifting and loss of other teeth in your mouth. As all of these benefits are physical, I wonder what effect they have on people mentally. It is an easy assumption that those with replacement teeth have more confidence, and therefore are better able to contribute to society by means of a job etc. I think that conducting an experiment where people of the same age group are separated based on whether they are missing teeth or not, and then they are observed and compared, would result in more evidence supporting the use of dental bridges and the other restorative methods you acknowledged in your article e.g. implants and dentures. In addition, I think the experiment would expose a topic that you covered briefly in the post, the socioeconomic class of people who have dental bridges. Being less expensive than an implant, but more expensive than dentures, bridges seem to be the middle ground treatment for tooth loss. The experiment would probably show that people in lower income classes are ones that lose the most teeth because it is assumed they have the lowest overall health. Sadly, without aide, these people cannot afford bridges or any other form of tooth replacement. A question spurred from this fact, is whether or not there is the technology to mass produce a cheap, yet effective dental bridge for those who need the treatment, but are held back from it because of their income. Ultimately my question to you is if affordable tooth replacement treatments are going to be available in the United States (as many other countries are practicing “dental tourism” as you mentioned in your article) in the near future?


While I enjoyed reading your post concerning tooth loss, I found that it was a bit disturbing. As a hopeful future dentist, seeing figures like nearly half of adults over 65 in West Virginia have lost all their natural teeth makes me wonder if there will even be any teeth left for me to clean. Your post made me consider the reasons for such high percentages of people who have lost all their teeth. While I agree with you that it could be because of dental IQ and dental treatment plans gone awry, I think that the problem is much deeper. As amazing as new dental treatments are, perhaps the public thinks it is very easy to replace teeth, so maintaining the health of their own teeth is not as high a priority to them. If a person is knowledgeable enough about implants (and rich enough to afford them), they may find it easier to just lose their teeth and get them replaced with long-lasting synthetic ones. As far-fetched as it sounds, I really do consider the possibility that one of the causes of tooth loss can be attributed to the dental world’s constant efforts to make tooth care easier for patients. While meant to help people improve their dental health, new advancements with old treatments like bridges and dentures can have an adverse effect and give people a more nonchalant attitude about losing teeth. The problem that needs to be solved is how to communicate with the public the importance of keeping their own teeth as opposed to not caring and getting them replaced. While people who are a part of the dental world understand, it is difficult for them to explain to patients, the majority of which can barley even manage to brush and floss twice a day. Ultimately, my question is whether dentists will be able to reverse the percentages of tooth loss in the United States, through a new means of communication with patients, or do they simply need to invest more time in tooth replacement research and technology so that they can help maintain their patients’ oral health? While I wish it to be the former, it seems the more lucrative decision is the latter.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Marijuana: Even Your Teeth Dislike the Smell

In a recent study by the school of dentistry at The University of Otago, New Zealand, periodontal disease was linked to over nine-hundred people who smoked marijuana at least forty times a year since they were eighteen years old. The study was published February sixth in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and can be added to the ever augmenting evidence that cannabis use is not as risk-free as it seems. There are many people who extol the numerous uses of illegal drugs for their medical benefits, as many drugs, especially marijuana, can help people in certain ways. However, research projects concerning the negative impact of illegal drugs on bodily health are a constant hindrance to anybody in support of drugs as treatments or cures. Although marijuana enthusiasts have a legitimate argument that the drug has many uses that are effective in treating certain types of medical disorders, past research and the aforementioned study clearly depict that the possible damage smoking pot can cause to the human body, particularly the mouth, if abused or overused makes treatment based on the drug very dangerous.

To understand marijuana's potential medical benefits, one must first understand how it works. Essentially, the components of the drug act as neurotransmitters, and are especially reactive to sensors in the brain that control body movement, memory, and vomiting to name a few (thus why people when under the influence of pot have decreased coordination, impaired learning, and increased hunger). By stimulating these specialized receptors, one can induce certain reactions from the body that will help treat specific disorders. For example, if a person were to undergo chemotherapy and acquire the typical side-effects of the treatment; weight loss, nausea, and pain, smoking marijuana afterwards would stimulate their appetite as well as reduce or remove the other effects. However, its beneficial qualities are not limited to just cancer patients. A 1986 study in the United States, found that after treating three patients suffering from Huntington’s disease with cannabidiol (a major chemical in marijuana) for two weeks, the spastic movements that are associated with the disease had decreased by 20% - 40%. The drug has also been proven to help people with glaucoma (by lowering the pressure in the eyeball and therefore counter acting the disease’s negative effects), as well as other very virulent diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. Studies like “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base” contain even more trials and research that are evidence for the health benefits of medical marijuana, however, they fail to cite the negative effects that medical and non-medical marijuana users face.

The amount of research performed by those hoping to see the optimistic side of cannabis use is shadowed by an equal amount of projects aiming to expose marijuana as a deadly substance. Risks of smoking marijuana even as treatment for specific conditions are very large, and provide enough evidence to deem its use unsafe. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2005 44.8% of twelfth graders had smoked marijuana at least once during their lifetime. This is a scary thought considering these students probably do not suffer from a disease where marijuana use is an acceptable treatment (of course teen drug use in America is a completely different issue all together, but it begs the question of whether non-medical professionals support marijuana for its health benefits or simply because they enjoy using it). The figure is even more startling when one considers the negative side-effects marijuana can have on users. When high on marijuana, immediate effects on the body are a decrease in coordination, distorted perception, and difficulty problem solving. Imagine if a person who was under the influence of marijuana were to perform an everyday task such as driving., the drug would negatively affect that person, and make them a danger to the rest of the drivers on the road due to their inability to react or think quickly. In addition to these side-effects, marijuana also disrupts the circulatory system; blood pressure drops, and heart rate speeds up, more than quadrupling the risk of heart failure. Long term effects of the drug are even more detrimental to one’s health.

Chronic users who smoke the drug are putting themselves at the highest risk possible. Marijuana smokers essentially face the same problems that plague long-term tobacco smokers. Obstructed airways, increased phlegm production, and exposure to carcinogens are among the most prevalent. However, the most serious side-effect of the drug is that even teeth are put at risk by habitual smoking of marijuana. Periodontal disease, or the regression of one’s gum line for laymen, can lead to loss of teeth and infection in the mouth. Recent studies have linked oral health to bodily health, and even proved that bacteria in the gums and mouth can travel through the blood stream and into the heart to cause cardiovascular disease. The fact that the drug already increases the risk of heart attack is even more likely because of the negative effects it has on oral health. With enough exposure, smoking the drug can cause irreversible damage that dental professionals can not fix. As a future dentist, it is worrisome that many users do not need to smoke marijuana for its benefits and curative powers, but do anyway, and in turn put their mouth in jeopardy.

Although there are positive results from using marijuana medically, the risks one takes when using it for “recreational” purposes completely outweigh the benefits. When taken on a strict regiment created by a doctor, and in pill form, marijuana is an excellent treatment for many ailments. However when smoked, and abused whether through medical means or not, pot is dangerous and can be very detrimental to overall health. While chemotherapy is a treatment that has many side-effects, it is still in use because it is one of the only ways to combat cancer. Although one can argue that the same can be said about smoking marijuana, this is not entirely true as the medical world has developed pills and other methods to cure symptoms that marijuana can also treat. In any case, in order to maintain good dental health, smoking pot in general should be avoided because it puts teeth and the body as a whole at risk.

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