CITY’s Best Dentist Dr. Tyler Slaughter shares his expert advice on oral health.
“When I was 14, I had been in braces for two years. I drank a lot of soda and didn’t put much emphasis on brushing and flossing. This led to a surprising dental appointment where I was diagnosed with double digit cavities,” says Dr. Tyler Slaughter.
This may come as a surprise to many considering Dr. Slaughter not only now adorns a set of perfectly straight pearly whites — but then again, he’s also been operating his own dental practice in Jefferson City since 2014.
“Having to go through extensive dental work at such a young age really changed my perspective about taking care of myself,” he says.
Dr. Slaughter and his team at Riverbend Dentistry have helped countless patients of all ages achieve oral health by following their motto: “Dentistry done differently.” After he was recognized as the 2021 CITY’s Best Dentist, we partnered with Dr. Slaughter to share his biggest concerns with oral health and what factors we may be overlooking.
How can oral health affect your overall health?
It shouldn’t be a surprise that problems in your mouth (mainly bacteria and inflammation) can affect your whole body. Your oral health has been shown to possibly affect things like heart disease, pregnancy outcomes, even pneumonia. Going the other way, many whole body conditions can affect your oral health: cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and osteoporosis, to name a few. Being aware of the mouth-body connection can help you take care of yourself and your loved ones.
What are the signs of periodontal disease?
You’ll notice puffy, red, inflamed gums that might bleed while you brush. This can be prevented with brushing and flossing, but most people don’t brush for long enough. You have to be diligent and brush for two minutes twice a day. It’s very easy to lose focus and not spend the necessary time to do a really good job brushing every surface of every tooth. (My 8-year-old son will brush for 30 seconds and think he’s done a great job; adults can be the same way.) It’s important to know that once you have gum disease, it can only be managed — not erased — so proper home care and keeping up with your dental visits are very important in order to maintain your teeth for as long as possible.
Do we have to worry about oral health more as we age?
Even patients with “healthy” mouths tend to lose bone surrounding their teeth over time. This causes the gums to have deeper pockets around your teeth and generally makes them more difficult to keep clean.
Sometimes people who have periodontitis have fewer cavities but will struggle with bone loss. Also, dry mouth, either from aging or from medications, can have a large impact on your oral health. It is important to have regular dental X-ray images taken so we can measure the depths of the pockets around your teeth at least once per year to keep an eye on these issues.”
Is there anything your patients often overlook?
I think more people need to consider the benefits that come with healthy teeth and a nice smile beyond the link to their overall health. Some new patients I see have been embarrassed by their teeth for years or have been living with chronic tooth pain and bleeding gums.
If you think of the times in our lives that all people enjoy, you start to see they can all be greatly influenced by your oral health. A smile is the first reaction when seeing family or friends, and most celebrations involve food and laughter. All of these things are negatively affected when you do not have a confident and functional smile.
Interestingly, full or partial dentures can change the taste, textures, and overall experience of eating food. Patients have told me they are too embarrassed to go out to eat in public because they’re fearful of their traditional dentures falling out while they’re eating or speaking, and when they do eat, they miss tasting and feeling their favorite foods.
There are now solutions for these challenges — technology in the dental field has come a long way. And we know that having the confidence to enjoy food and interact with their family and friends couldn’t be more important. It’s my team’s job to find the best solutions possible for our patients.”
As a dentist, what are you most worried about?
My biggest fear is for people who delay appointments or avoid the dentist entirely for years out of fear of being judged. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an adult who doesn’t love their smile or a parent struggling to motivate your child to brush their teeth — no one should be ashamed to come to our office.
I always find myself telling the story of being diagnosed with an overwhelming number of cavities to my patients. I just want to show them they’re not being judged. I understand what they’re going through and I’m glad they’re here. I am so grateful to have had help getting my oral health back on track as a teenager, and now hopefully my team and I can help others in our community.
How is dentistry done differently at your practice?
I do not have a one-size-fits all solution for patients; I listen to find out my patients’ personal goals and then present them with options to achieve optimal function and confidence based upon that information. We pride ourselves on taking the time to talk with people and not overwhelm them, but rather educate them and let them make an informed decision. We strive to positively impact our patients’ day-to-day lives and improve their overall happiness by giving them the knowledge and tools to have a healthy, beautiful smile. We also make sure kids have the best dental experience we can give, and it gives us great joy knowing that they love coming to see us.
Everyone deserves a confident, pain-free smile at any age, and we will guide them on that journey. That’s what “dentistry done differently” is all about