When Dr. Lisa Siddall opened her own dental practice in Lake Leelanau 20 years ago, she dedicated herself to oral care techniques that improve the overall quality of life for her patients.

She considers each patient’s medical background, current health conditions, and risk factors to promote total body wellness.

And indeed, a dentist may be the first health care provider to diagnose a health problem in its early stages. Research from the Academy of General Dentistry shows 90 percent of all systemic diseases—diabetes, pancreatic cancer, kidney disease—have oral manifestations. “Early signs can be picked up by looking in the mouth,” says Siddall. “Bleeding gums can be a sign of diabetes. And when gums are bleeding, it’s like having an open sore. Bad bacteria in the mouth can enter the body this way.” She notes that when people suffer a heart attack and they find a clot, “often it has oral bacteria in it.”

She’s also helped patients find a link between their nighttime teeth grinding and inability to get adequate oxygen during sleep.

“Sleep apnea, snoring, and sleep disordered breathing can be caused by oral anatomy,” says Siddall. She discovered this when she started doing dental cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scans, which make 3-D images of a patient’s teeth, soft tissues, nerve pathways and bone in a single scan.

“We were doing the scans for bone placement for implants,” Siddall says. “Because we were getting a 3-D picture of the anatomy, we found people who had these worn down teeth and we could see the obstruction that was causing the volume of oxygen to breath to be compromised. When you are not getting adequate oxygen, the body goes into a grinding response. The theory is that you wake yourself up enough to change your jaw positioning.”

To remedy this, Dr. Siddall can make custom oral appliances that naturally open your airway and increase oxygen flow during sleep. The benefits to resolving sleep disorders and associated teeth grinding go on: it can help with migraines, jaw pain and tooth sensitivity caused by enamel loss. “Once you get through the enamel layer, the inner tooth is six times softer, and the teeth begin to shrink and wear down faster.”

And certainly, Dr. Siddall and her team can help with the smile itself. “We rebuild the teeth up to their original height, and can give patients Botox for a mini-facelift around their mouth.”

That makes for confident smiles, and, yes, one more puzzle piece to overall health.

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Northern Michigan Medical & Health

Photo(s) by Michael Poehlman