Updated: Feb 5, 2022
How many times have you been to the dentist and thought about chiropractic? Never... Well, I have!
I was sitting in the dentist's chair getting my teeth clean when I realized just how much chiropractors and dentists have in common. Aside from the whole doctor thing, our professions aren't too far-reaching. But we do have some important differences too.
One of the biggest similarities is the concept of decay. Decay in your teeth looks like discoloration, gum disease, plaque buildup, cavities, infections, and rotting. A dentist's main focus is to prevent tooth decay. Spinal decay occurs in the same way. It can set into the joints and can be unrelenting and progressive often occurring with little to no symptoms. With repetitive strain and the continual stress, your body may elicit pain as an alarm but isn't the problem. A chiropractor's main objective is to prevent spinal decay.
What is spinal decay? Spinal decay has 3 phases:
Phase 1: A reduction of the normal spinal curvature, impaired turning or bending, narrowing of the joint space. This phase usually presents with headaches, neck pain, back pain, poor posture, "text neck", and jaw pain.
Phase 2: Roughening of the joint surfaces, bone spurs, impaired mobility. This phase usually involves disc herniation, pinched nerves, radiating pain, numbness, and tingling.
Phase 3: Severe bone remodeling, irreversible joint fusion, permanent loss of motion. Phase 3 is frequently chronic, usually affects either one or all extremities, and occasionally requires surgical intervention
Another similarity is education and the prevention of decay. Dentists have taken the cake when it comes to patient education. We all know what will happen if we miss our teeth cleanings, skip brushing our teeth, and never floss. By doing these things regularly you are preventing tooth decay and promoting optimal oral health. Why are they so important anyway? It strengthens your gums and toughens them up helping to prevent and treat gum disease. It removes the "gunk" between your teeth that can cause them to get inflamed and irritated. A huge factor in this is that we see our teeth every day! A smile is the first impression but imagine if you greeted someone with your spine. Most of us would take much better care of it, wouldn't we? But wait, chiropractors just get rid of pain, right? Pain isn't our main focus and here is why. Our bodies react to uncorrected spinal trauma by changing the shape and function of the affected joints. Chiropractic care helps prevent spinal decay. Spinal adjustments relieve areas of the spine that are stressed and stuck. The joints in our spine crave movement and when the spine is in motion spinal decay slows down. Chiropractic adjustments are like brushing and flossing your teeth. It helps to remove the inflammation and spinal "gunk" that builds up in the spine and strengthens it. By aligning the spine and improving joint function, the nervous system works better, and the messages being sent between the brain and body are much clearer.
There's more! It is common knowledge that dentists take x-rays of your teeth to identify potential cavities. This is because you can have a cavity and have no idea and no symptoms! Chiropractic checkups are the same way. When you come in for a routine monthly check-up and have no symptoms, we aim to identify potential problems areas before you even feel it. Lastly, we all know that sugar can rot our teeth. It's how our parents stopped us from eating all of our Halloween candy in one night. Sugar leads to dental decay but it also can lead to spinal decay because too much sugar and a poor diet increases systemic inflammation in our bodies and cause early deterioration of joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
There are some key differences though. As opposed to dentistry, most people try to fit chiropractic care in the current medical model of healthcare which is crisis care or sick care. You are not expected to see a doctor unless you have a problem or are sick and some people even wait to see a dentist until they have an abscess or infection. This flawed thinking is preventing optimal health and promoting reactive care instead of proactive care. Another huge difference between your teeth and your spine is that your spine cannot be replaced! They are no dentures for your spine. Physiologically speaking, taking care of your spine is way more important to your health than your teeth are! "Our spine, which is made of bone, or the hardest substance in the body, was intelligently designed to protect our nervous system, the softest and most delicate part of our body. These protected nerves are in control of EVERY aspect of our health, even the growth, development, and maintenance of our teeth!"
So, after reading this, I hope you can appreciate the striking similarities of dental decay and spinal decay, how the goals of chiropractors and dentists align in prevention, and the vast difference in patient education from oral health to spinal health and its damaging effects on health and wellness.
Source and picture source: