Make Your Dentist a Part of Your Health Team

dentistDo you think your dentist is the best? You shouldn’t choose anyone below your first choice.  “Everyone should have a dentist they can trust with their health. Don’t settle for less,” says Dr. Carol Ford from her cosmetic dental office in Phoenix. “You chose your dentist from a long list of available choices, and your choice should be the dentist you think is the best fit for your dental needs as well as your health,” she adds.

Sure, most people know that their dentist cares about their teeth and gums, but your dentist is really much more than the person who cares for the visible parts of your mouth.  Your dentist is part of your health care team—every bit as important as an internist or a cardiologist. MouthHealthy.org, the consumer side of the American Dental Association, says: Your mouth is a window into the health of your body. It can show signs of nutritional deficiencies or general infection. Systemic diseases, those that affect the entire body, may first become apparent because of mouth lesions or other oral problems.”

Many health issues show up in the mouth first, and are easy for you to miss. You spend a lot of face time with your mirror, and you might think you know about your smile and teeth. But examining the mouth for health problems is best left to someone who has the lights, equipment, tools, and training to know what to look for.

Your dentist will also take your blood pressure regularly, because high blood pressure is a common problem that causes heart attacks and strokes, and can also create challenges for your dentist. When your dentist discovers a potential health problem they will refer you to your physician, who will evaluate the symptoms, causes and then recommend treatment. Being referred to a physician is an important first step to getting your health into shape.

Many serious diseases show up in the mouth first—bad breath that can’t be cleaned away with brushing, flossing and using mouthwash may be a sign of diabetes; jaw pain may be the first sign of a heart attack. Dental X-rays may show the first signs of bone loss or osteoporosis. Leukemia, pancreatic cancer and auto-immune diseases also have oral symptoms your dentist can detect early.

“Your dentist is an important part of your health care team, so trust and openness is an important part of a solid relationship,” says Dr. Ford, adding, “Your dentist can save your life and that’s enough to make your smile brighten considerably.”

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