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Applications of Lifestyle Medicine to Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine

Updated: Feb 12

Lifestyle Medicine


Applications of Lifestyle Medicine to Oral Medicine and Orofacial Pain

I am excited to share that I became a Diplomate of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) in January 2022.



What is Lifestyle Medicine?


“What is Lifestyle Medicine?” you may ask.



Lifestyle Medicine is a foundational approach to maintaining health, treating, and potentially reversing chronic diseases.



Lifestyle medicine certified clinicians are trained to apply evidence-based, whole-person, prescriptive lifestyle change —including


1. a whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern,

2. regular physical activity,

3. restorative sleep,

4. stress management,

5. avoidance of risky substances and

6. positive social connection



as a primary modality to prevent, treat, and, when used intensively, often reverse chronic disease. (Reference, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, ACLM.)




Applications of Lifestyle Medicine to Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine


So, why did an oral medicine/orofacial pain specialist become board-certified in Lifestyle Medicine?



When a friend and colleague introduced me to the field of Lifestyle Medicine, I took the bait because I reviewed the evidence and found it astounding.



My primary intention was to become healthier and stronger myself. Then, by extension, use my knowledge to equip my patients to understand how lifestyle factors impact their chronic orofacial conditions and partner with them to regain their quality of life.



I learned a ton about using prescriptive lifestyle changes to combat stress and the ill effects of burnout and chronic diseases, including chronic pain.



Lifestyle factors are key in initiating and perpetuating many chronic orofacial pain conditions. Chronic stress and poor sleep up-regulate the sympathetic nervous system lowering the threshold for pain.



Patients tend to report higher intensity of facial pain and headaches during periods of intense stress and poor sleep quality. During such periods, patients may exhibit habits such as teeth clenching and bruxing (grinding), which increases muscle activity and non-functional loading of the temporomandibular joint.



Patients with oral lesions such as recurrent aphthous ulcers and oral lichen planus also tend to experience more flares during periods of stress.



As with many other malignancies, a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables protects against the development of oral cancer, while smoking and alcohol increase the risk.



Uncontrolled diabetes is associated with increased occurrences of periodontal disease, oral candidiasis, dental caries, xerostomia, oral lesions, and oral dysesthesia (persistent alteration to oral sensation, including oral burning). Studies have shown that lifestyle modifications can significantly improve the clinical outcome of patients with Type 2 diabetes [1].



From a purely dental perspective, fruits and vegetables are protective against dental caries (cavities), while increased intake of sugar-loaded treats during stressful seasons of life promotes caries and dental pain,



Conclusion

As clinicians, we can partner with our patients to implement strategies that address the lifestyle factors that sustain their chronic diseases.



And that is what I have committed to do. I listen to my patients as I take a thorough history that uncovers multiple lifestyle factors. I assess their readiness to make changes, advise them on strategies to implement, and assist them on their journey to health. And I have found that patients who engage with the recommended lifestyle changes respond better to treatment than those who do not.



Suppose you are a healthcare professional or student; I invite you to visit the American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s website, where you will find ample resources on introducing Lifestyle Medicine to your practice.



Until next time…

Dr. Idahosa




Reference:

  1. Kelly, J., Karlsen, M., & Steinke, G. (2020). Type 2 Diabetes Remission and Lifestyle Medicine: A Position Statement From the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827620930962



© 2022. Applications of Lifestyle Medicine to Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine. Dr. Chizobam Idahosa. All Rights Reserved.

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