How many times have you dashed out of your dentist’s office having without letting the office manager schedule your 6-month check-up? If you, like most Americans, avoid visiting the dentist, you may be putting not only your oral but general health at risk.
Most people don’t think that their dentist could one day save their life, usually ascribing those lofty responsibilities to a cardiologist or brain surgeon. However, when you open wide for that routine oral check-up, it’s not just to see if there are cavities. We asked Dr. Guido Sarnachiaro of Specialized Dentistry of NY why regular check-ups are so important.
Do I really need to go for that yearly oral check-up?
“Your mouth is a window into what’s going on in the rest of your body, often serving as a helpful vantage point for detecting the early signs and symptoms of systemic disease,” Dr. Sarnachiaro points out.
A problem caught during a dental check-up can be one of the best ways to diagnose a variety of ailments early on. Consider for a moment that “90% of all systemic diseases produce some form of oral signs and symptoms.” And as Dr. Sarnachiaro notes, there are multiple “links between Oral and General Health.” Essentially, “the mouth is a port of entry for infection because it allows harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which can lead to more inflammation in other parts of your body, such as the heart.” So not only can poor dental hygiene can have a detrimental effect on your overall health, but almost any kind of health issue can in turn affect your oral health.
As an example, Dr. Sarnachiaro recalls an episode towards the beginning of his career when he “found a small pigmented lesion that looked suspicious [on a patient].” After taking a biopsy and sending it off for testing, the results came back positive for a Melanoma. Immediately, in consultation with Dr. Sarnachiaro and the patients primary care doctor, the patient was able to seek treatment and ultimately had a successful outcome. “That early detection may have very well-saved the patient’s life,” Dr. Sarnachiaro noted.
And this story is not unique. On many occasions, dentists are the first line of defense against illness for people who may otherwise seek medical care on a haphazard basis and avoid regular check-ups. This is why, along with ”brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, eating a healthy diet, replacing your toothbrush every three to four months and avoiding tobacco use,” Dentists and physicians strongly recommend regular dental checkups and cleanings as part of a comprehensive approach to overall health.
Dr. Guido Sarnachiaro of Specialized Dentistry of NY is an expert in dental implants and related biomaterials and holds academic positions at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, Temple University School of Dentistry and the Maimonides University School of Dentistry.