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4 Questions that could save a patient's life

Sept. 24, 2013
Twenty million Americans will see a dentist this year, and will not see a physician. For many reasons, the dental team is uniquely positioned to affect the health of patients ...

by Jen McGuire

Twenty million Americans will see a dentist this year, and will not see a physician. For many reasons, the dental team is uniquely positioned to affect the health of patients, but this scenario may be the most compelling. As millions fail to complete basic annual exams and preventative health measures, dental professionals can lead patients down the road to discovery and health. Start by asking your patients the following four questions:

1. Do you have difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the jaw and tongue?

More than 8,000 people will die from oral cancer this year, yet oral cancer awareness remains low and cases diagnosed remain high. With the connection between oral cancer and strains of HPV, we cannot expect this to change anytime soon. Talking to patients about oral cancer risk factors, testing them for oral HPV, and screening with a light fluorescent device are critical to keeping patients healthy for years to come.

2. Have you been told that you snore?

With the rise in obesity of the U.S. population, obstructive sleep apnea has become a silent epidemic, going largely undiagnosed as patients skip medical visits or fail to discuss sleep habits with physicians. While snoring is often dismissed by patients as merely a nuisance, it can be a symptom of sleep apnea, which in severe cases can increase risk of death by up to 46%.

3. Is there a history of heart disease in your immediate family?

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women. With more than 50% of adults infected with some degree of periodontal disease, it is critical to know if patients are at risk for heart disease. According to the Journal of Periodontology, any patients with periodontitis who have two or more known atherosclerotic CVD major risk factors should be referred for medical evaluation if they have not done so in the past 12 months.

4. Do you have a family history of diabetes?

Diabetes contributes to approximately 230,000 deaths each year. People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes, probably because diabetics are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes. Those people who do not have their diabetes under control are especially at risk. Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar level. This puts diabetics at increased risk for diabetic complications. Ensuring diabetic patients keep their condition under control with periodontal therapy is essential to patient health, as is making them aware of any warning signs of diabetes noted in an exam. This includes the development of periodontal disease.

With more than a decade of marketing experience in the health-care industry, Jen McGuire leads the marketing of Henry Schein Dental's Business Solutions. As part of this offering, she developed and launched dentistry's first wellness program, Total Health Beyond the Mouth. Contact McGuire at (800) 372-4346 or at [email protected]. Learn more at www.HenryScheinBusinessSolutions.com.

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