“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them”- An apt thought given by Sir Albert Einstein, has always been a driving force to generations, through the centuries. A similar acceptance caused a revolutionary change in the field of dentistry. It all started back in the 1800’s when doctors of the medical field began to specialize. One of those fields was Odontostomatology. These Odontostomatologists wanted to separate further, for ease of decision making and licensing. That’s when a bunch of periodontologists paved a way for the birth of oral medicine by infusing medicine in diagnosing and treating dental structures. Hence the specialty of oral medicine has always had its origin in medicine. This goes to say that the two fields, dentistry and medicine were never meant to be divided as they are. Coming full circle oral medicine mainly deals with the treatment of oral structures using medicine and the process of diagnosing a disease for the application of medicine. It has been known for centuries that a person’s oral health, has a significant impact on their overall health.
Even Hippocrates the “Father of medicine” did not hesitate to write about dentistry. He emphasized the importance of the tongue, as being an important prognostic and diagnostic tool for the detection of numerous ailments of the human body. Hence Oral medicine as a specialty has been able to minimize the once created gap during specialization to a greater extent.
With the advancement of modern technology, today healthcare professionals have more knowledge than ever about a variety of links between oral health and other health related issues. For example: Painful mucosal ulcers are common in people with AIDS, gingival infections have been linked to premature birth. Despite the presence of scientific evidence to show these associations, dentists and physicians fail to come on common grounds and share knowledge. This results in ailments being left undiagnosed and untreated. Hence Oral medicine is the branch intended to reduce these discrepancies. Oral medicine when used as a bridge between dentistry and medicine can be strongly integrated by adopting various means such as, Firstly the oral medicine specialist should adopt a wise mindset. This would include eliminating the gap between medicine and dentistry, by treating every ailment as a whole. Oral medicine has been blessed with the opportunity to save lives. With the advancement in technology, we can focus our attention to a wide range of symptoms that might be exclusively restricted to the mouth or may be an oral manifestation of a more widespread disease. Therefore mouth is called the “mirror to the body”.
Various medical issues manifest themselves in the oral cavity, such as diabetes results in xerostomia, decreased immunity results in opportunistic infections, GI and respiratory disorders would result in malodor and so on. Hence oral medicine is mainly aimed at the careful inspection and location of abnormalities and deformities and the early diagnosis of oral diseases yet to occur in the oral cavity, with the help of medicine. The folly of this division becomes evident when we contemplate the widely recognized links between oral health and medical health. Put simply, the mouth is often a wide-open window into what is happening in the rest of the body—and sometimes a source of risk as well. This unnatural professional separation was helpful to no one and often caused unnecessary suffering to the patients. But we are now in a moment, driven by our greater understanding about the links between medicine and dentistry, where we further integrate the two fields to better meet the need of a patient. Hence a continuous need for updating one’s skills, knowledge and constant research work is needed. As it is rightly said by Sir William James- “The glory of medicine is that it is moving forward, that there is always more to learn. The ills of today do not cloud the horizon of tomorrow, but act as a spur to greater effect”. Oral medicine has come a long way but has to make forward leaps and bounds. So it would be right to say that oral medicine will forever be a bridge between medicine and dentistry.
Dr. Elita Bhaskar