News & Press
John C. Chao, D.D.S., M.A.G.D
Faculty, USC School of Dentistry
Why General Health is Important to Dental Treatment
Nellie, age 42, went for a dental checkup for the first time in ten years. Routine blood pressure monitoring disclosed that her blood pressure reading was abnormally high (180/115). No dental treatment was rendered. She was immediately referred to a physician and was diagnosed and treated for hypertension, high blood pressure. Her physician told her that if left undetected her condition could have led to a heart attack or stroke. She returned for dental treatment after her condition stabilized.
Nellie's case is the result of the kind of routine screening dentists generally conduct to look for medical conditions that need medical attention. In addition to hypertension, one of the most common medical conditions that are of particular concern to dentists is "mitral valve prolapse,"a malfunction of a heart valve that leads in backflow (regurgitation). These abnormal heart valves are said to be susceptible to bacterial infection that originate from oral sources. In such cases, prophylactic (preventive) antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, should be taken before dental treatment is begun.
Diabetes is sometimes suspected when the patient presents with a family history or diabetes and severe, uncontrolled periodontitis (gum disease). In this case the patient may be referred for a medical checkup and blood test.
Another common problem is that of "dry mouth" (xerostomia). This condition may be associated with such conditions such as diabetes and menopause. But dry mouth is also a common side effect of over 400 commonly prescribed drugs. Patient suffering from dry mouth are especially susceptible to gum disease and dental caries (cavities). If there is no apparent cause for dry mouth, the patient is referred for medical consultation. If it clear that dry mouth is associated with a diagnosed disease or side effects of medications, treatment planning will probably include home application of topical fluoride with gels, rinses and fluoride toothpastes. To reduce risk of gum disease, more frequent deep cleanings, anti-bacterial rinses, topical administration of antibiotics and home application of anti-bacterial solutions.
These are just a few examples of conditions your dentist will be concerned with at your dental checkups. Feel free to discuss any medical issues, even those you suspect may not relate to your dental treatment. You may be surprised at how medical condition affect dental health, and vice verse.