A conversation with Leading Edge Dentistry about the importance of good oral hygiene.
By Cory Sekine-Pettite
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, when health officials didn’t know much about the virus, one of the recommendations issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) was for people to delay dental care. Well, we all soon learned that medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) would prevent transmission of COVID-19. So, if your dentist and dental hygienist wore masks, you could seek treatment safely and your dentist would be protected from possible exposure as well. Following that WHO suggestion, the American Dental Association’s (ADA) then-President, Chad P. Gehani, D.D.S., issued a statement strongly disagreeing with the WHO, declaring: “Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.”
This statement holds true whether or not we are in the midst of a pandemic. It’s accepted knowledge that good oral hygiene is fundamental to overall health and wellness. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a growing body of evidence has linked oral health, particularly periodontal (gum) disease, to several chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. In pregnant women, poor oral health has also been associated with premature births and low birth weight. With this information, Cobb In Focus sought out local dentists to talk about how oral hygiene is a foundation for good health. Meet Dr. Dimple Patel, D.M.D., and Dr. Radha Patel, D.M.D. (no relation) who own and operate Leading Edge Dentistry in Marietta.
Leading Edge Dentistry was founded by Dr. Michael L. Howard, D.D.S., more than 30 years ago. The practice offers full-service dentistry that utilizes the latest techniques and technology for patient care. Leading Edge is known for its warm, friendly environment, whether patients desire a simple check-up and cleaning, or more involved restorative and cosmetic procedures. The Drs. Patel bought into the practice in recent years and now operate the business while Dr. Howard has taken on a more diagnostic role.
So, what else sets this practice apart? While most dental professionals are aware that patient comfort is important, Leading Edge Dentistry makes it a priority. From high-tech laser dentistry to tension-reducing terry-cloth neck rolls to the caring smiles and personal attention patients receive at each appointment, a comfortable, stress-free dental visit is always the goal.
“We love the demographics of people here [in Cobb],” said Dr. Dimple Patel. “They’re very friendly, extremely intelligent, and in tune with their health needs, which makes practicing dentistry very rewarding. We love building long-lasting relationships with the family-oriented people here. And it just helps us to ensure good, long-term dental health through having long-lasting relationships.”
While Leading Edge Dentistry is known for its cosmetic work (restorations, whitening, veneers, cosmetic bonding, etc.) that can repair a patient’s smile and their confidence, the doctors aren’t focused on vanity. “The patients are able to see our skill and the changes in their smile,” Dr. Radha Patel said. “And it’s very rewarding when the patients can actually see [the changes].”
“We can not only change the aesthetics, but also provide help in so many different ways involving their overall health. So, it’s been very rewarding,” added Dr. Dimple Patel.
Their reputation for improving smiles is but one differentiator. Another factor would be the amount of time they spend with their patients. “Healthcare is driven in so many different directions these days. Patients don’t necessarily always feel like they’re heard, or their voice gets lost,” Dr. Dimple Patel said. “What sets us apart is that we really listen to our patients to gain a better understanding of what will allow the patient to succeed in the whole treatment process.”
A women-owned business
According to the ADA, among the 201,927 dentists working in the profession as of 2021, just 35.9 percent are female. But that number has been rising steadily since 2010 when female dentists made up just 24 percent of the profession. Diversity in the dental workforce is improving as well, the ADA reports, though most of the field — about 70 percent — is white.
“When I was practicing at the VA hospital — I did my residency there — most of the patients had never been treated by a female dentist, especially one from a diverse background,” said Dr. Radha Patel. “It took patients time to get used to a female in this role. So, it’s not necessarily something that’s new, but it’s something that’s becoming more prevalent now. More and more women are entering the dental field and succeeding.”
Why you should practice good oral hygiene
According to the doctors, about 80 percent of us have some level of gingival or gum inflammation or infection caused by the buildup of plaque in and around the gums. Generally speaking, that isn’t indicative of poor health or bad oral hygiene. There are many factors at play from diet to body chemistry. “It could be due to hygiene, but it could also be due to medications or underlying medical conditions in the body. So, there are various factors that can lead to gum disease.” said Dr. Dimple Patel.
The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. The ADA reports that at this stage, the disease is reversible. Eliminating the infection can be as easy as a trip to the dentist’s office for a professional cleaning. And prevention can be as easy as daily brushing and flossing. Typically, gum disease is painless, so you wouldn’t even know you have it, which is why it is critical to see your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
“Every patient is different, and their dental needs vary as well,” Dr. Dimple Patel continued. “Some people require cleanings three to four times a year, while others may need cleanings twice a year. So, it’s really dependent on each individual’s dental and gingival health conditions.”
“With the mouth, it’s not true that ‘if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not a problem,’” Dr. Radha Patel added. “But with dental health, once you start having pain, that’s when you know that things are more on the severe spectrum.”
Additionally, you may be diligent about brushing and flossing, but did you know there are proper techniques? Consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on the best method for your situation. And for general guidelines, the ADA has brushing and flossing instructional videos on their website at mouthhealthy.org.
Ignoring your oral hygiene for too long can lead to chronic or aggressive forms of gum disease leading to gum loss, tooth decay, tooth loss, or worse. The ADA reports that research between systemic diseases and periodontal diseases is ongoing. While a link is not conclusive, some studies indicate that severe gum disease may be associated with several other health conditions such as diabetes or stroke. And the link to heart disease is being seen as a little more conclusive. According to the Harvard-affiliated Forsyth Institute, a not-for-profit research organization focused on oral health, chronic inflammation — including that of periodontal disease — is a key contributor to many health problems, especially atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries around the heart).
“There have been studies that show a lot of bacteria that are found in the mouth have [also] been found around the heart,” Dr. Radha Patel said. “So, there are a lot of correlations between your dental health and your overall health.”
Bottom line: Don’t put off your oral checkups and don’t ignore any problems you may be having with your teeth or gums. You know the proverb: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Meet the doctors
Dr. Dimple Patel is a native of South Carolina. She attended Emory University in Atlanta, where she attained degrees in Psychology and Religion while also completing her science requirements for dental school. Upon graduation with honors in 2000, Dr. Patel returned home to attend dental school at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. When she completed dental school in 2005, Dr. Patel returned to Atlanta to pursue her career in general dentistry. She has been delivering excellent dental care to her community in the Greater Atlanta area for the last 17 years before joining Leading Edge Dentistry.
So, why did she choose a career in dentistry? “I enjoy dentistry because I like working creatively with my hands and providing a service to patients that can change their smiles and outlook, while also providing a service that can really benefit their overall health as well,” she said.
Dr. Radha Patel attended the University of Georgia for her undergraduate degree. During her time in Athens, she volunteered with and worked for numerous dental non-profit organizations. It was during this time that she realized her true passion for dentistry. After completing her undergraduate degree, Dr. Patel attained her Doctorate in Dental Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania and then went on to complete another year of advanced education in general dentistry from the Veteran’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She has been practicing general dentistry in Atlanta for the past six years.
So, why did she choose a career in dentistry? Dr. Patel finds dentistry to be rewarding as it allows her the opportunity to put a smile on the faces of her patients while also improving the quality of their oral health. “While in college, I worked as a nurse’s assistant and shadowed many different medical professionals. I have an artistic side, so dentistry felt the most natural to me. I found dentistry to not only be engaging, but also tremendously rewarding,” she said.