Dental health is much more than just brushing your teeth; if an individual’s mouth and gums are not healthy they may experience many health issues that you would not think are related to a healthy mouth such as heart disease.
A visit to the dentist will usually include some time spent with a dental hygienist or the dental assistant. The professions are slightly different, with a dental hygienist requiring a higher level of professional education. A dental assistant can work in a dentist office with just a high school diploma, if the dentist is willing to train on the job. A dental hygienist will require an associates or bachelors degree in dental hygiene. Both professions will work with patients prior to the dentist, but the dental assistant will assist the dentist with procedures, take dental x-rays, take impressions of teeth for dentures or caps, and work in the office performing administrative duties. A dental hygienist will perform some of the same duties as the dental assistant as well as charting a patient’s dental history; clean the patients’ teeth, administer anesthetics, and remove dressings and sutures from past visits.
The median income in the United States for a Dental Assistant is approximately $35,000 dollars annually, while a dental hygienist median income is approximately $70,000 dollars annually.
In the United States we have come to realize that dental health is extremely important and can affect people both psychologically and physically. Those with gum disease are much more likely to have another chronic disease such as diabetes or heart disease. Unfortunately due to the medical industry’s separation of body health and oral health (which makes no sense considering the mouth is a part of the body); many who suffer from dental disease go without treatment because their health insurance does not cover dental costs.
In third world countries the children will often weigh much less entirely due to dental decay. They experience discomfort, pain, disease, and chronic infections. This can lead to less sleep, possible hospitalization and learning issues from missing school. Due to the pain that eating can cause those in developing countries tend to have lower levels of Vitamin C, folate, and beta carotene that are essential to good health. Poor dental health can also lead to disfigurement which creates a whole other set of issues.
Only by tying dental health to overall health will we see the improvement of these concerns. In the United States those in poor neighborhoods suffer from loss of schooling due to the fact that dentists often only work during the week when these children are supposed to be in school. Because of the lack of dental insurance these children do not see the dentist as often as their more wealthy neighbors and so have more instances of dental decay. It would be a great benefit all over the world if dental health could be viewed as an overall health issue.