Dentists Can Identify Patients at Risk -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Dentists Can Identify Patients at Risk

The study followed 200 patients (101 women and 99 men) in private dental practices in Sweden whose dentists used a computerized system, “HeartScore,” to calculate the risk of a patient dying from a cardiovascular event within a ten-year period.

HeartScore measures cardiovascular disease risk in persons aged 40 to 65 by factoring the person’s age, sex, total cholesterol level, systolic blood pressure and smoking status. Patients with HeartScores of ten percent or higher, meaning they had a ten percent or higher risk of having a fatal heart attack or stroke within a ten-year period, were told by dentists to seek medical advice regarding their condition. Twelve patients in the study, all of them men, had HeartScores of ten percent or higher. All women participating in the study had HeartScores of five percent or less.

Of the twelve male patients with HeartScores of ten percent or higher, nine sought further evaluation by a medical care provider who decided that intervention was indicated for six of the patients. Two patients did not follow the dentist’s recommendation to seek further medical evaluation and one patient was only encouraged by his dentist to discontinue smoking. Physicians for three patients were not able to confirm their risk for cardiovascular disease.

All 200 patients enrolled in the study were 45 years of age or older with no history of cardiovascular disease, medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes and had not visited a physician during the previous year to assess their glucose, cholesterol or blood pressure levels.

The study’s authors conclude that oral health care professionals can identify patients who are unaware of their risk of developing serious complications as a result of cardiovascular disease and who are in need of medical interventions.

According to the authors, “With emerging data suggesting an association between oral and non-oral diseases, and with the possibility of performing chairside screening tests for diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, oral health care professionals may find themselves in an opportune position to enhance the overall health and well-being of their patients.”; Source: American Dental Association (ADA)