Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body

By Dr. Cecile Sebastian
Interviewed by Rasa Fournier
Wednesday - January 12, 2011
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Dr. Cecile Sebastian
General and cosmetic dentist

Where did you receive your schooling/training?

I attended Purdue University for my undergrad, then Northwestern University Dental School. My team and I attended the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. To be a graduate of LVI, one must complete hundreds of hours in courses such as comprehensive full mouth rehabilitations, and cosmetic, neuromuscular and implant dentistry. My team and I continue to learn the latest techniques and technology to be able to bring back to Hawaii the best that dentistry offers today.

How long have you been practicing?

Since 1989, so 21 years.

Can you talk about how oral care affects overall health?

Oral bacteria has been found in heart valves in cardiac patients, so a lot of heart disease patients have gum disease. Researchers think inflammation from gum disease can translate into inflammation of other blood vessels in the body. They don’t know if gum disease causes heart disease or heart disease causes gum disease, but there’s a correlation.

Mothers with gum disease have been found to have an increased chance of delivering babies pre-term and/or with low birth weight. The oral health of the mother can have a long-term effect on the child. Studies have shown that after getting gum disease treatment in the first trimester, the mother’s chances for pre-term birth decrease by 80 percent. Then again, there’s a study that shows that it didn’t. It’s hard to figure out what side I’m on, but it’s better to be on the safe side and treat everyone as if you need to have a healthy mouth to have healthy deliveries.

With diabetics, they suffer worse conditions than non-diabetics. For example, if a non-diabetic has gum disease, they would suffer symptoms like bleeding and pain in the gums or maybe tooth loss. That progression in a non-diabetic patient can take 10-15 years. If a patient were diabetic, we can see it happen in two years. There’s also a correlation between controlling blood sugar and inflammation in the mouth, where those with gum disease have a difficult time controlling their blood sugar, but when they had their gum disease treated, they had a better handle on it.

Dr. Sebastian with a patient

Can you say something about how dental care also helps with arthritis and cancer?

Arthritis patients have inflammation of the joints, and researchers found that a huge population of arthritis sufferers are missing a lot of their teeth. So they’re studying if there is a link - could it be because they developed gum disease?

As for cancer, we do oral exams in our office and we have found many cancer lesions on our patients. I am in no capacity to diagnose cancer, so we act as a partner in our patient’s health by referring them to their physicians. In a lot of these patients they have immediately received surgical excision. One patient had thyroid cancer and within a week it was removed and she’s been healthy and cancer-free for the past eight or nine years now.Another patient, just last year on his oral exam, we noticed a huge lump that he never noticed. His wife was here and she never noticed. Within a week it was excised. It was only stage 1, and today he’s fine and healthy.

Does the mouth affect the body in other ways that most people might not realize?

Children with allergies tend to have difficulty breathing through their nose, and what happens is they breathe through their mouth and their lips get very dry. My kids were among these sufferers. You hear them snoring. Children should not snore. When they’re breathing through their mouth, their tongue is not sitting against their palate. The purpose of the tongue against the palate is for proper development of the dental arch. A child who grows up with constant allergies and asthma, always breathing the wrong way without the tongue touching the palate constantly, their arches grow narrow and there’s not enough room for teeth, so they come out with crowded buck teeth.

Does the shape of the mouth have an impact in other areas of health?

One thing we do is change the bites of our patients to a healthier position. Patients come to us and they want new teeth or new bites or new dentures because they know that their teeth are off. We have a way of measuring the muscle activity to see where the jaws are most relaxed. When we find it, we put their new teeth in that position, using an appliance to try that bite on for months. They get to try it out, eat with it, talk with it, chew with it. We proceed then to their final treatment.

One patient came in for implants and I said, “Are there any other problems?” He said no. Then he opened his mouth and his joints went pop and locked every time he opened his mouth. He thought it wasn’t dental related. The reason it’s popping and locking is because there’s a disk that is displaced by his bite. He also barely has an airway, and has to sleep with a sleep apnea machine. We’re going to find a comfortable, healthy bite and hopefully eliminate the joint problems, help him sleep better and give him a healthier outlook on life.


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