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Dentists Can Be First To Detect Some Medical Conditions

Armen Hareyan's picture

Some dentists are giving patients blood tests before and aftertreatment of gum disease to help screen for more than 20 medicalconditions, including diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, Hodgkin'slymphoma and chronic heartburn, the Chicago Sun-Timesreports. Bacteria that cause gum disease release toxic byproducts intothe bloodstream, which can increase levels of blood sugar, cholesteroland C-reactive protein, or CRP, which is a measure of systemicinflammation. Studies have shown that gum diseases might increase therisk of a number of health problems, including heart disease andpremature births.

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If treatment of gum disease does not lowerlevels of blood sugar, cholesterol and CRP, it could indicate that apatient has some underlying disease. Testing before and after gumdisease treatment costs about $150 and typically is not covered byinsurance, according to Ronald Schefdore, a dentist who gives routineblood tests. In addition to blood tests, some dentists are givingpatients oral cancer tests; correcting patients' bites to treatheadaches, neck and shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears; and fittingpatients with oral devices to stop snoring.

"We're discoveringthat the mouth has implications for the whole body," dentist IvanValcarenghi said. Schefdore said, "If every dentist practiced this way,we could improve the health of the world overnight" (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/19).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.