Some dentists are giving patients blood tests before and after treatment of gum disease to help screen for more than 20 medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic heartburn, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Bacteria that cause gum disease release toxic byproducts into the bloodstream, which can increase levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and C-reactive protein, or CRP, which is a measure of systemic inflammation. Studies have shown that gum diseases might increase the risk of a number of health problems, including heart disease and premature births.
If treatment of gum disease does not lower levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and CRP, it could indicate that a patient has some underlying disease. Testing dental lab equipment before and after gum disease treatment costs about $150 and typically is not covered by insurance, according to Ronald Schefdore, a dentist who gives routine blood tests. In addition to blood tests, some dentists are giving patients oral cancer tests; correcting patients’ bites to treat headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears; and fitting patients with oral devices to stop snoring.
“We’re discovering that the mouth has implications for the whole body,” dentist Ivan Valcarenghi said. Schefdore said, “If every dentist practiced this way, we could improve the health of the world overnight”