The Specialist

Diagnosis is key to success in dental treatment

Would you try to patch a car tire without knowing what caused the leak or where the leak started? Did the leak originate from the tube or the rim?

How about trying to fix the engine of a car without determining exactly the source of the problem? Today, just as with automotive technology, several tests are used to make an informed diagnosis of a dental problem.

Modern dentistry has advanced to the point where we are able to perform diagnostic tests first before we determine the cause of the problem. The majority of the dental problems are caused by bacterial diseases, periodontal diseases, tooth decay and others.

These dental diseases are able to be tested, evaluated and in many cases eliminated.

Therefore, the accuracy of this process requires a diagnosis. This means we can provide for our patients the appropriate diagnostic protocols which are critical in determining the success of each treatment.

Definition of diagnosis

Diagnosis is the process of determining the specific disease or condition. A diagnostic test uses laboratory equipment to measure and confirm the presence or likelihood of a certain bacteria. This is critical to the success of your dental treatment because we cannot treat what we do not know or we do not see.

Confirming the diagnosis

We can analyze the bacteria in your mouth. Specific bacteria have been identified that cause severe bone destruction around teeth in periodontal disease and in tooth decay. There is a simple saliva test taken by a swab or below your gum line (in pockets) that is sent to a laboratory, which identifies specific germs and how pathogenic or infective are your bacteria.

The role of your immune system

Although bacteria are present and can be measured, the other side of the story is your immune system. Your immune system is your ability to fight off disease. When we are younger, we tend to have a stronger immune system, signified by how fast we heal. However, as we age, we heal a little bit slower. Therefore, the process is two-fold. We need to identify the type of bacteria in our mouths as well as we need to know the number of disease-causing bacteria.

Genetic makeup

In my practice at Center for Specialized Dentistry, patients frequently ask about how their genetic makeup factors in catching gum disease or getting cavities from kissing or using someone else’s tooth brush; or did they get the disease from their parents and whether they can pass it on to their children.

Firstly, your genetic makeup is a major factor in determining your likelihood in generally attracting diseases.

Secondly, studies show that although the bad bacteria may be transferred during a kiss or toothbrush use, the number of bacteria transferred is too low to cause disease to the next person. Additionally, for the disease process to begin and to be transferred, the receiving person’s immune system would have to be compromised and their genetic makeup will need to be susceptible.

Wouldn’t it be great to know about the bacteria that may affect the diagnosis of your dental disease? Similarly, when you visit your medical doctor for an infection before any treatment is administered, they usually find out the strain of bug or your genetic susceptibility. Such tests are available in dentistry. With a simple saliva swab, we can identify certain bacteria, determine the quantity and learn about the strength of your immune system to fight it.

With advanced technology and information made easily available, your course of treatment can be planned, which will improve effectiveness and give you a better chance to save your teeth. Also, it allows the dentist to better determine your ability to heal after surgical procedures, better tailoring your treatment.

Next issue: Are x-rays necessary?

Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry, a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified Fastbraces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue; he can be reached at telephone (242) 325-5165 or

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