For a long time, dentists have been thought of as something like “tooth doctors” who look at our teeth to make sure they show no signs of decay and clean them thoroughly a couple times a year to help us prevent cavities. But while this is, of course, true, it’s not the whole story.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen some welcome change in the perception of what dentists do. A lot of this is due to increased awareness of the role that periodontal health – the health of the soft tissues in the mouth that we call “gums” – plays in both dental and systemic health. We now know that the same microbes responsible for gum disease are found in cases of other inflammatory conditions such as chronic heart disease (CVD) and diabetes.
But teeth and gums aren’t all that a dentist is concerned with. The dentist is concerned with the whole mouth, which contains many other structures besides just the teeth, gums and tongue.
Recently, the kids’ section of the Washington Post featured a nice, accessible article about the less obvious oral structures. We think adults should know this, too. In fact, all of us should know a lot more about our bodies than we do. After all, they are us, and we are them. The more we understand about how they work, the more empowered we become to make good choices to support their – which is to say our – health and well being.
So if you don’t know what your uvula is (yep, we all have one!), what your paillae do or why you would never want to lose your frenulum, check out the Post‘s fun and easy-to-read rundown of the parts that make your mouth work as it should and that your dentist sees each time he or she says, “Open wide.”
Image by Duncan Kenneth Winter, via Wikimedia Commons