Well Checks Don’t Guarantee That All is Well by Dr. Dana Rockey

This article appeared in the MAY 2017 issue of OC Family 

Although a child, teen or adult may pass an annual well check, it doesn’t mean all is well. Well checks often don’t look at inflammation in the body, which can be chronic in many patients. Inflammation is key to understanding the connection between nutrition and health, including oral and whole-body health.

Many patients don’t realize how the bacteria in their mouths directly affects the heath of their brain, heart, arterial system and other organs. Eighty percent of the adult population in the United States has some level of periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory, infectious disease that includes gingivitis and periodontitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Nutrition alone is the greatest determinant of a person’s health, over exercise, taking vitamins and other measures. Long-term periodontal disease is caused by poor nutrition.

As a dentist, I work with patients to reduce the bacteria-caused inflammation of periodontal disease; additionally, as a nutritionist, I strive to reduce the inflammatory component of poor nutritional choices.  

The body’s cells are completely replaced every four months. When patients eat healthy with a plant-based diet, the healthy cells help to repair the body as well as the oral cavity, namely the gum and mouth tissue. When the mouth is healthy, bad bacteria is not pumped through the rest of the body.

Parents of young children and teens have the benefit of taking control of their own health by adopting healthy nutrition and a more balanced lifestyle that minimizes stress and helps children to manage stress from a young age.

Parents can give their children and families the gift of health. Just start now.  

Here are some tips for shaping young tastes:

Tell and show children, “This is how we eat.” Let your children know that you love them and want them to be healthy. “Grow” foods keep us well, and junk foods make us sick.

Serve fresh or frozen baby and toddler food. This can help children learn what fresh food tastes like and feels like in their digestive system.

Graze on “grow” foods. Eat small portions of healthy foods more frequently. A portion is the size of the person’s own fist.

Avoid artificial additives. Packaged foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or “trans fats” or color additives with a number are unhealthy for children and adults.

Serve nutrient-dense food. Your child’s first foods should be fresh or minimally processed. “Grow” foods such as avocados, wild salmon, eggs, oatmeal, spinach, organic yogurt, blueberries, sweet potatoes and kidney beans pack a lot of nutrition into a small volume of food.

Model healthy eating habits. Children will copy what they see their parents modeling.

Shape…don’t control your child’s eating habits. Think in terms of shaping your child’s food choices. This means providing your child every chance to make a wise choice and also directing and redirecting your child in ways that help him be in charge of himself. Do not beg or reward your children for eating, nor punish them for not eating. A good plan is to make sure they eat “grow” foods before fun foods.

Surround your child with nutritious food. Make sure the foods in your kitchen are the ones you want them to like. If you have fruits and vegetables easily accessible, this is likely what they will eat.

Expose your child to a variety of new foods. Introduce new foods between the ages of 2 and 4 years old, as this is the age they are most likely to be accepted. Repeated exposure is key; it usually takes 10-20 times before a new food will be accepted.

Enjoy happy meals. Encourage a happy atmosphere around the table. As you are transitioning from less healthy to more healthy foods, your child may eat less. Resist feeding them junk food because you are worried that they are not eating. They will gradually accept these changes.


Dr. Rockey, a dentist in Newport Beach, is leading a wellness approach to dentistry and health care in the U.S. In his practice, he treats patients as people who have interconnected, body-wide systems. 


This article appeared in the Family Wellness section of the May 2017 issue of OC Family (page 50-51)


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