The Dentist: A Key Member of Patients’ Healthcare Team

The Dentist: A Key Member of Patients’ Healthcare Team

A new study conducted by NYU shows that dentists can be key in screening, preventing and referring for chronic physical illnesses. As trained healthcare providers, dentists and dental hygienists can take a patient’s health history, check blood pressure, examine x-rays and use direct clinical observation to detect risk for conditions such as, diabetes, hypertension and even heart disease.                

The study, conducted by a nursing and dental research team, determined that there is a significant number ofU.S.citizens who see a dentist annually, but do not see a general healthcare practitioner. As many as 20 million Americans who see the dentist regularly do not see a general physician, according to the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The research team for the study used the most recent data. A subsample of 31,262 adults and children who participated in the Department of Health & Human Services 2008 annual National Health Interview Survey, aU.S.health status study, was used. The original survey consisted of 304,375,942 individuals.

The results indicate that 26 percent of children did not see a general healthcare provider, yet over one-third of the same group, which is representative of nearly seven million children, did visit a dentist. This means that dentists are crucial front-line practitioners in the defense of systemic disease identification which could otherwise potentially go undetected in a very large portion of the population, say the research team.

“For these and other individuals, dental professionals are in a key position to assess and detect oral signs and symptoms of systemic health disorders that may otherwise go unnoticed, and to refer patients for follow-up care,” said Dr. Shiela Strauss, associate professor of nursing at the NYU College of Nursing. Dr. Strauss is the co-director of the statistics and data management core for NYU’s Colleges of Nursing and Dentistry.

Of the adults surveyed, one quarter did not visit a general practitioner, but almost a quarter or nearly 13 million U.S.citizens, did have a dental visit in the same time period. Combined, adults and children who had visits only with a dentist represent nearly 20 million people.

The study also concluded that health insurance, or a lack of it, did not contribute to the findings. Ninety-three percent of the children and 85 percent of the adults had health insurance.

The study is the first of its kind and indicates that a healthy relationship with a dentist and good dental team is a critical component of a complete healthcare picture. Previous studies have shown that maintaining a high level of oral hygiene contributes to overall health as well. Bacteria may enter the bloodstream through the mouth and gums, potentially causing other health issues, including heart disease.

Oral hygiene and regular dental checkups prevent dangerous build up on teeth. Dentists also seal cracks and openings that could allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This latest study demonstrates that dental professionals can also help identify medical issues and prevent more serious disease.

Call today to schedule your regular dental check up and ask the skilled team at South Charlotte Dentistry to give you a thorough check while in the office. Contact Dr. James Wells and his great dental team at www.south-charlotte-dentistry.com or call 704.759.8333 today.

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