Teeth play a huge role in our health as well as in how we look aesthetically. We must have teeth in order to chew food, and the chewing motion improves the immune system and slows down the aging process. It also improves brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain and aids digestion by increasing the production of saliva. When food is chewed well, it regulates our autonomic nervous system and can improve conditions such as migraines, shoulder and back pain, numbness in our hands and feet, dizziness, tinnitus and eye discomfort. Teeth are also the “safety sensors” of our bodies, detecting stones, sand and other particles that become mixed in with our food, and protect the body by stopping the chewing motion. According to Dr. Iwata Arihiro*, this is something that dental implants are unable to do. While normal adults have between 28-32 teeth, experts tell us that in order to live to the age of 100, one must have at least 20 teeth remaining at the age of 80. This is the meaning and significance behind the number ‘2080’.

Periodontal disease, an ailment that occurs in the tooth-supporting structures, along with cavities are the top two most frequent ailments for which people seek out dental treatment. When we eat and drink food, food particles get stuck in between the teeth and gums (periodontal pocket). Food particles caught in this area cannot be easily removed with a toothbrush, and when it is not removed it can become a hot-house of bacterial activity.

Periodontal diseases can be prevented if all food particles are thoroughly and cleanly removed by correct tooth-brushing. Although I have tried to explain the importance of brushing teeth and educate patients about the correct technique, in reality many patients find it extremely difficult to change their tooth-brushing habits. After years of watching many patients suffer, I started to look into ways that patients could brush their teeth correctly more easily.

The first step I took was to prepare videos to show the patients that explains to them the correct technique for brushing teeth. In order to help them understand the terminology used, I simplified the method and showed them directly what the proper technique looks like.

Secondly, I recommended to patients that they use floss, inter-dental brushes, end-tuft brushes, tongue cleaners and various other oral care products in order to make up for their less-than-satisfactory teeth-brushing technique.

However, I came to realize that these supplementary products were not in actuality a big help to the patients. Patients continued to suffer from their oral ailments, and sometimes their conditions even worsened, leading to more difficulty in brushing their teeth - in effect, a vicious downward cycle.

I realized that while a problem existed, it was not really being addressed. The approach used for prevention was dentist-centered; namely, it did not take into account the habits and needs of patients. Dentists were the problem - we needed to think of a solution that addressed patient needs and ailments from their point of view. I asked dentists and dental hygienists in the dental profession about the current education on tooth-brushing. They were dubious as to whether patients could actually brush their teeth as they are educated to do, and the most positive response was that the effects of education must be looked for in the long-term rather than in the immediate future. If there are no significant benefits or changes in the present, is it realistic to expect them further down the road? Even dentists, who know the importance of tooth-brushing and correct technique and who stand firmly in the center of the solution were not able to give a certain answer. This was the problem.

* Iwata Arihiro: Dentist. Doctor of Medicine. Undergraduate dentistry degree and a post-graduate degree in dental research from a Japanese university. He worked for a number of years at Taniguchi Dental Hospital, but he is currently the director of the Iwata Arihiro Dental Clinic. He insists on treatment that is patient-centered, insisting on adequate treatment time for each patient, as well as recommending treatments to patient that he himself would prefer to receive. He believes strongly that treatment focused on saving teeth rather than earning money is the best way forward for both patients and dental clinics.