As the calendar has turned to fall and November with winter approaching its official start, I want to remind everyone that check-ups are very, very important … and not just to help you with a healthy mouth.
Times are changing in many dental offices.
For example, did you have your blood pressure checked the last time you saw your dentist? Well, it’s becoming a more common practice at dental offices as medical professionals strive to take every opportunity to make sure patients are healthy throughout their bodies – and not just relying on a dentist to make sure your teeth and gums are in good shape while your family doctor deals with “medical” issues.
If you dentist can spot an previously undiagnosed problem such as high blood pressure – an issue that many people face but can be unaware of – why shouldn’t he or she let you know so you can get immediate treatment by a medical doctor? Some oral surgery patients have found themselves being directed to the nearest emergency room because of an astronomical reading on the blood-pressure monitor.
In a most extreme case, I had a patient with abnormally high blood pressure and I advised him to seek immediate medical attention. He returned six months later for a check-up … and was 40 pounds lighter and his previously undiagnosed diabetes and high blood pressure were being controlled through medication. He looked healthy again and we were happy to tell him!
Conversely, if your medical doctor can spot a potential oral issue, why shouldn’t he or she let you know what they see and give a strenuous recommendation that you get an appointment with a dentist? Each doctor, whether medical or dental, should be working at a systemic approach (that is, looking at more than their specialty) and will ultimately together provide a broader look at all patients’ complete health.
For example, tests are being developed to easily and quickly diagnose diabetes with a swab. So, your dentist may soon be doing such routine checks.
Further, many dentists already take a patient’s blood pressure before each visit. Dentists do look for signs now, such as if a patient complains of or shows symptoms of dry mouth or if a patient is slow to heal after a procedure, but there is a movement in medicine to expand the systemic approach by all doctors.
Experts say having dentists do such tests and continue looking for the signs of an undiagnosed case of diabetes (as well as high blood pressure) will help save lives.
A recent study by New York University and published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that a test easily done at a dental office can help expose undiagnosed diabetes for patients.
The report is important because some people see their dentist more regularly than they see a primary care doctors for such things as an annual physical. Here’s a quote from the NYU study (http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2015/02/26/nyu-study-successfully-screens-for-diabetes-at-dental-visits-using-oral-blood.html):
“In light of findings from the study, the dental visit could be a useful opportunity to conduct diabetes screening among at-risk, undiagnosed patients – an important first step in identifying those who need further testing to determine their diabetes status,” according to Dr. Shiela Strauss, associate professor of nursing for NYU’s Colleges of Nursing and Dentistry.
Look for additional research in this field and look for your dentist to be expanding his or her preventative diagnosis of your overall health.
If you don’t have a dentist, consider calling the full-service Naples Implant & Laser Dental Center (239-261-8200). We can help you take care of your mouth.