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Should dentists offer health screenings?
December 15th, 2011
04:45 PM ET

Should dentists offer health screenings?

Each year, nearly 20 million men, women and children in the United States fail to see a family physician or similar health care professional, but they do pay at least one visit to the dentist, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health.

For this segment of the population, dentists may be the only doctors in a position to spot the warning signs of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, and provide referrals or advice to prevent serious complications, says Shiela M. Strauss, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and an associate professor at New York University's Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing.

Oral or dental abnormalities can signal a broad range of body-wide health problems, including HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, eating disorders, and substance abuse, in addition to diabetes. In a previous study, for instance, Strauss and her colleagues found that 93% of patients with gum disease (such as gingivitis) also met the criteria that should trigger blood-sugar screening under American Diabetes Association guidelines.

Health.com: Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes

"I'm not advocating for dentists to become general health care providers," Strauss says. But, she adds, dentists can easily measure blood pressure and administer simple screening questionnaires - both of which could potentially make a big difference to the health of someone at risk for diabetes who hasn't seen a doctor recently.

In the new study, Strauss and her team analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a nationally representative government-sponsored survey of health care use. In 2008, the researchers found, roughly one-quarter of adults did not see a physician, nurse practitioner, or other general health care provider - but of that group, 23% did see a dentist. The pattern was similar among children.

It's not clear what's leading these people to see a dentist but skip medical care. Most of the adults - and nearly all of the kids - had health insurance, so lack of coverage can't fully explain it. In fact, the authors note, the dentist-only group was "quite diverse" ethnically, socioeconomically and geographically.

Health.com: 20 things that can ruin your smile

It could be that dental problems - unlike some chronic diseases - are often too painful to ignore, Strauss says, or it could be that dentists are simply better than doctors at reminding patients when it's time for a checkup.

Getting dentists in the habit of screening for health conditions will probably require changes to dental-school curricula, the researchers say. However, dentists and dental hygienists are typically already trained to check blood pressure and conduct other types of general medical screening.

Health.com: Natural ways to lower blood pressure

And while they might be hesitant to take on more patient responsibilities, Strauss says, doing so may have unexpected benefits. She points to the experience of some Swedish dentists who participated in an insurance plan that required them to implement diabetes screening for their patients.

"The reputation got out there that these were dentists that really cared about the patients," she says. "It was an initial investment of a bit more time on the part of the dentist, but it reaped great rewards for them in terms of growing their practice."

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Dental health • Health.com

soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Outside of Vanity reasons, ie chipped or broken tooth or pain, I would think a doctor visit would be more prevalent. I mean other than cleaning, dental insurance doesn't cover much...Oh well!

    December 15, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brian

      Yes, but I do go for my cleaning and check twice a year while I only go to my doctor for my annual exam. For people under 40 they may not go at all. But a better solution would be to start having biannual exams at 35 /

      December 15, 2011 at 23:32 | Report abuse |
    • sick n tired

      No kidding, I have dental "insurance" but I have not been to a dentist in far too long. It is just like everything else. The only people who can afford quality care are the ones at the top. If I need dental work it is going to be an extraction, nothing more. I actually work for a living so there is no way I could afford a movie star smile.....

      December 16, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse |
  2. Rickydick

    My dentist gives me a health care screening each year from my neck up. He checks my tongue, under my lips and my glands in my neck. He could do more but at what cost? He should be paid if he does more work. Think of it this way: Professional advice doesn't cost-IT PAYS! Dentists could conceivably save the health care system billions of $ ANNUALLY with early disease detection. Dentists doing basic health care screening will happen one day. It may occur in 50-years, but it will happen. Too bad I won't be around to witness it.

    December 15, 2011 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      I can see all knds of new liability for them, which they shouldn't have to deal with. There are too many people who will be quick to accuse. Can't afford a doctor visit, do what the illegals do and use the ER as your doctor office (sarcasm)

      December 16, 2011 at 20:25 | Report abuse |
  3. dave

    dentists are not doctors. They do not go to medical school.

    December 15, 2011 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GoatBoy

      Doctor of Dental Surgery bro. (Forgot to link)

      December 15, 2011 at 21:48 | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      Dave. Why don't you try to google "DMD" tell me what you find if you can read. I'll give you some help. One of the Ds is for "Doctor"

      December 15, 2011 at 21:48 | Report abuse |
    • anonymous

      Umm, my wife is a dentist and racked up $160K in student loans at medical school. She spent two years along side the students going for MDs (as opposed to a DMD) taking all the same foundational med school classes before they broke out into their respective specialties. I would venture she still knows much about general medicine as a lot of doctors out there and has diagnosed patients of hers with drug problems, cancer, and diabetes. And I wish I had a nickel for every time a friend or famlily member called with a general medical question that she correctly diagnosed- from digestive problems to feminine issues.

      December 15, 2011 at 21:55 | Report abuse |
    • Not Real "Docs"

      I agree, if your concerned about diabetes or heart disease, you should definitely go see a dentist.

      December 15, 2011 at 22:54 | Report abuse |
    • BillRubin

      if you're concerned about cervical cancer, see your dentist

      December 15, 2011 at 22:57 | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      q: What's the difference between a doctor and a dentist?
      a: A doctor doesn't call himself a dentist.

      December 15, 2011 at 23:42 | Report abuse |
    • Mom in Midwest

      Within the past 6 months I know of two people who went for dental check-ups and the dentist detected oral cancer. Both were found early enough they will have a good prognosis, neither had symptoms that they had found concerning. We do manage to get our children to a dentist once a year but we have not had the funds for my spouse and I to go for many years. To bad dental insurance wasn't so expensive, health insurance is already eating a huge hole in our wallet. Wouldn't it be great if health insurance had at least one dental check-up bi-annually?

      December 16, 2011 at 07:05 | Report abuse |
    • sick n tired

      But they can still take you to the cleaners just the same.....

      December 16, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
    • uh

      Actually, at several dental schools, the dental students are in with the medical students for the first two years taking al of the same classwork. Even in schools that aren't structured like this, they still get extensive medical training.

      December 16, 2011 at 17:20 | Report abuse |
    • IgM

      As a medical student, I can tell you that the first two years of medical school do not really qualify you to be a doctor. That is where you learn the background, it's all book learning. The second two years are where the magic happens, where you learn through rotations in the hospital, where you see what diseases look like. Then residency is more of this with increasing responsibility. Without this, you cannot really call yourself a medical doctor...

      December 19, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse |
  4. JB

    As a dentist I would say no thank you. We're trained to do what we do extremely well and if we see issues we refer to our physician colleagues appropriately. However, to take on the liability of missing something or not diagnosing something in a litigious society such as ours is beyond what I would be willing accept. We're here for oral and maxillofacial issues. We have no interest in taking on the role of a primary care physician. Once we are expected to do a full health exam, which some do if they are sedating for treatment, I think we've opened ourselves up to being blamed for every ailment that someone has in spite of the fact that they haven't seen a physician in years. Not my job.

    December 15, 2011 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      It's sad you can't speak up about anything for fear of lawsuits. No wonder our medical insurance costs are so high!

      December 15, 2011 at 21:49 | Report abuse |
    • fkajf

      As an accepted dental student, I have to agree with you JB. There is already enough concerns for malpractice in the field of dentistry. To take on the concerns of a physician would open up a plethora of malpractice suits. These suits would be even more harmful to older dentists who never wanted to take on those responsibilites. Additionally, if I had wanted to diagnose people for general illness, then I would have applied to medical school. My main goals as dentist will be to increase the ORAL health of my patients and improve the appearance of their smile. I hope non one sees this as selfish or pig-headed because I chose to go into the profession of dentistry for many reasons. None of those reasons included being someones primary care physician. Besides my interest in teeth, I chose dentistry because I can work with hands, interact with people, and produce tangible results that boosts the self-esteem and oral health of my patients. On a side note, I have over 200 hours of shadowing experience. The most resonating piece of advice that I got from the dentistst that I shadowed is to never step outside of your field to make a diagnosis. Making diagnoses that a dentists cannot and should not make opens them up to being sued. For example, a pediatric dentist may be able to predict by interacting with a child if that child is autistic. If the dentist told the parents what he suspected, he could be sued or lose these patients. Either way it is a lose-lose situation for the dentist. However, if a primary physician saw these signs of autism, the parents would be more willing to listen and less critical about the doctor.

      December 15, 2011 at 22:09 | Report abuse |
    • njemnu

      No wonder pharmacist's rank so high in trust. Where is the patient at the center of your care. You have to be pretty dumb to not be able to do some simple screening. 'Screening', for common chronic illnesses is easy to do.

      December 15, 2011 at 22:30 | Report abuse |
    • BillRubin

      Jim, unfortunately we live in a world where, despite a doctor's best intentions, mistakes (and lawsuits) happen. With increased responsibilites comes increased liabilities.

      December 15, 2011 at 23:13 | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      njemnu,

      The patient IS high on their concern list. But they also have to protect themselves. It only takes one devastating lawsuit to ruin a career and destroy a life's dream. Add to that the fact that most dentists are really more interested in oral hygiene and teeth than other parts of medicine. If they want to stick with what they are best at, why force them to change?

      December 16, 2011 at 00:46 | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    My dentist thought I might have nighttime acid reflux because he said my teeth were worn from the inside, and that's exactly what I had, I saw a specialist and I had Barret's esophagus which is a pre-cancerous condition. If my dentist hadn't caught it, I might have been a lot worse off!

    December 15, 2011 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. djKLA

    Dave, When you see your dentist you call him/her Dr. ______. I already know some dentists who do complimentary health screenings like Rickydick recieves. I am not sure how small family practices will feel about dentists performing a health examination.

    December 15, 2011 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Fran

    One more reason not to see dentists if they're going to start pestering clients with unwanted medical tests...

    I would add to that that a lot of dental clinics still don't have private examination rooms, so would there be any guarantee of this not happening in public spaces?

    December 15, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • anonymous

      I can't think of a reason NOT to see a dentist. You wash your car? Get the oil changed? Tires rotated? Why would you not take care of your teeth and go for regular checkups?

      December 15, 2011 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
    • Scared of WHAT?

      What they fail to note is that SOME people go to doctors, but never dentists, because dentists SCARE THEM. Some people go to dentists but avoid doctors because doctors SCARE THEM. These clowns are ignoring the obvious.
      No, dentists should NOT do medical screens, any more than they do NOW (and they do quite a lot - see the posts from dentists and others here) because the people who CAN go to a dentist but are scared to death of doctors will stop going to the dentist, too!

      December 17, 2011 at 00:00 | Report abuse |
  8. GoatBoy

    Doctor of Dental Surgery bro.

    December 15, 2011 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Lex

    I expect my dentist to deal with oral health and nothing else. I am happy if he/she understands anxiety issues with dental care and I am happy if he/she deals with that well. Beyond that I will see my PCP for all other health care issues.

    December 15, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dentofile

    As a dentist I feel that it is safe to say that if we are doing our job properly, this is already happening. We are trained to screen fr oral signs of systemic diseases and make appropriate referrals. This includes hypertension, cancer, reflux, hypercholesterolemia, syndromic diseases, and many other conditions. I agree with @JB that we are not primary medical care providers per se. We have enough on our plates in the day in day out delivery of dental care.

    December 15, 2011 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Grateful one

    I go to my dentist more regularly than I do my doctor. My dentist takes my blood pressure and was the one that alerted me to the fact it was unusually high. High blood pressure can apparently be a silent killer and I was grateful taht my dentist discovered that so I could deal with it quickly!

    December 15, 2011 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. NA

    Dentists eh? Interesting thought. Why not ask your pharmacist. Most are now Doctor of Pharmacy trained and could check your blood glucose, some check your cholesterol, update your immunizations and all for no office visit, sitting fee and all the free advice you can get. Seems more underutilized than your dentist.

    December 15, 2011 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • njemnu

      Absolutely agree with you. I am a pharmacy student and we do those for free all the time. When you see a sign up at your pharmacy, go for it. It's usually free.

      December 15, 2011 at 22:24 | Report abuse |
    • The Truth

      They are just pill counters.

      December 16, 2011 at 00:40 | Report abuse |
    • njemnu

      Pill counters eh? 😀 Why don't you become one then? That line is cliche'. The point I am underlining is that non invasive screening can be done for free at your local pharmacist. I would invite the truth to check out 'MTM'.

      December 16, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
  13. njemnu

    Pharmacists can also do that. Lots of people without insurance see pharmacists every year. In fact these things are already being done by pharmacists.

    December 15, 2011 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Cindy

    My dentist has been doing health screenings for several years. Poor health shows up in the teeth first. When your teeth fail you are on your way out.

    December 15, 2011 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. BillRubin

    "Most of the adults – and nearly all of the kids – had health insurance, so lack of coverage can't fully explain it."

    That's a big question that needs to be answered.

    December 15, 2011 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dylan

      Just because you have health insurance doesn't mean it is actually affordable to go. The "good" insurance at my company will pay 80% of the bill once you hit your out of pocket limit of $250 per individual and $1000 for family. That is after paying $350-$400 per month for the insurance.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse |
  16. Joe Sixpack

    Nobody likes going to see an MD. They just shove their arm up your rear and then lecture you for 30 minutes.

    December 15, 2011 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BillRubin

      Before your dentist checks your prostate, make sure they're done working on your teeth. jk

      December 15, 2011 at 22:55 | Report abuse |
  17. The Truth

    I don't know about the US, but in Canada, people tend to see physicians more often then dentists. Up here, they are like car dealership salesmen, mechanics, chiropractors etc etc. You see them, and they won't let you leave unless you've paid for extra services/products that are not needed, scheduled for future needless appointments, milked you dry. And no, they are NOT MD's.

    December 15, 2011 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. TCVAN

    NO!!!!!!

    December 15, 2011 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Fred

    Let's see– they say most of those people have health coverage so that can't explain why they don't go to a doctor. Oh really? My "health coverage" doesn't pay one single penny until I've shelled out $1500 of my own first during the year– not a penny for office visits, not for lab tests, not for preventive screenings. So I don't go to the doctor unless I absolutely have to, because the full cost is still straight out of my pocket, and I just haven't got the cash.

    December 15, 2011 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. moribundman

    When I take my cat, Captain Kirk, to the vet, I always ask the vet to give me a quickie exam also. Afterwards, both, me and the Captain, get a tartar-removing treat!

    December 15, 2011 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. moribundman

    Remember when Jerry Seinfeld went to the dentist? While coming to after some dental procedure, his shirt was open and the dentist and assistant were getting dressed.

    December 15, 2011 at 23:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Mitch

    Does the prostate exam come before or after the teeth cleaning?

    December 15, 2011 at 23:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Dan

    Aren't dentists the ones pushing Fluoride and Mercury fillings, both extremely toxic poisons. On the other hand, doctors push vaccines (full of mercury, other toxins, and contaminates). I guess I won't go to either one for a 'sickness' check up. Instead, I'll go to a Naturopath, someone who is trained to promote health through nutritional and other holistic means.

    December 15, 2011 at 23:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • natural lover

      good luck with that sugar water

      December 16, 2011 at 00:39 | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Dentists do root canals ....Doctors do brain surgery. Neither can be fixed with flowers or fruit.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      Oh yeah– gotta love that natural quackie mumbo jumbo.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
    • ething

      Maybe upper 70's for an avg expected life span is a little too high as well. I think, as a society, we should cut back on western medicine altogether and start embracing our "natural" past before modern medicine, when if you made it into your upper 50's you were out-surviving most of your peers. 🙂

      December 17, 2011 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
  24. DentistInThe714

    As a dentist in the modern age, I believe it is our job to treat the body as a whole and realize that oral diseases are certainly interrelated with greater systemic issues occurring in the human body. I would like to add that most dentists these days are trained to do generalized health screenings, blood pressure, pulse, and temp at every appt, thorough medical history. We of course refer anything beyond our scope of practice.

    December 15, 2011 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portland tony

      WHO ARE YOU KIDDING? WHEN VISITING A DENTIST, THE FIRST PERSON YOU SEE IS NOT THE DENTIST IT'S HIS OR HER STAFF. IF YOU NEED SCALING OR CLEANING, THE DENTIST DOESN'T DO IT. XRAY, DENTIST DOESN'T DO IT. THE ONLY TIME YOU SEE THE DENTIST IS FOR MAYBE A SHOT OF PAINKILLER AND SOMETHING REMOVED OR ADDED TO YOUR MOUTH. AS SOON AS HE'S FINISHED HE'S DOWN THE HALL DOIN THE SAME THING TO SOMEONE. ELSE. IF A DENTIST HAS TIME TO GIVE YOU A PHYSICAL, HE HAS TOO MUCH IDLE TIME.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      I GOTTA ADD THAT ON INITIAL VISITS, WHERE YOU FILL OUT YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY AND PCP (DOCTOR), INSURANCE, ETC THEY WILL CONTACT YOUR DOCTORS OFFICE IF YOU ARE TAKING CERTAIN MEDS.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:47 | Report abuse |
  25. Brian

    A dentist is not a doctor. I have seen dentists make gross mistakes when dealing with something outside of dentistry. One of my dentists was drinking on the job.

    December 15, 2011 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      I would report a dentist who drinks on the job. Forget the check-up stuff - incompetent dentists have the capacity to do devastating damage to a person just with a drill and badly placed lidocaine shots.

      BTW, some doctors also drink on the job. So do bus drivers and oil tanker captains on occasion.

      December 16, 2011 at 00:56 | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Beware of falsely accusing someone of drinking that, because of necessity, has to use mouthwash or breath Freshener because they do most of their business up close and personal.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse |
  26. Barbara

    We already do oral cancer exams and discuss systemic health. We talk about inflammation and c reactive proterin relating to cardiovascular disease and stroke. We discuss diabetes, periodontal disease and their whole health history.

    December 16, 2011 at 00:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BillRubin

      Barbara, are you ordering CRP in patient blood work? What about PSA?

      December 16, 2011 at 02:54 | Report abuse |
  27. Bobby

    For most of us, just the mere act of sitting in a dentist chair invites high anxiety. Just how reliable would a blood pressure reading be anyway. I agree with a general health check from the neck up though.

    December 16, 2011 at 00:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      ...and the doctor's office is more relaxing?

      December 16, 2011 at 00:54 | Report abuse |
  28. Old Crone

    The first time I went to my dentist, his nurse found I had a low pulse. He told me he would not work on me until he talked with my doctor. Three days I had a pacemaker put in. I love my dentist and the way he does business.

    Tomball, Texas

    December 16, 2011 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      That is good service.

      December 16, 2011 at 00:48 | Report abuse |
  29. Edwin

    Forcing dentists to do this would be a bad idea. So would mandates. But giving more information and training to those dentists that want to offer screenings sounds like an excellent idea.

    Better yet, let dentists offer both options - a screening (for fee) plus dental work, or dental work alone. That way, those who go regularly to a doctor or just don't want to pay can avoid the extra medical bill.

    December 16, 2011 at 00:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. carla

    I can appreciate Dentist's not wanting to be liable for our healthcare beyond our oral care. However, I have found the best Dentist. She understood my anxiety about going to the Dentist and treated me accordingly. She did check blood pressure, pulse and did a questionnaire. She does this each time. I don't depend on her for my medical care but it sure is great when they recognize something that needs to be treated by my PCP. It's sad that we live in such a litigious society. Why isn't dental insurance as available as health insurance? We need to address this.

    December 16, 2011 at 01:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. carla

    I can appreciate Dentist's not wanting to be liable for our healthcare beyond our oral care. However, I have found the best Dentist. She understood my anxiety about going to the Dentist and treated me accordingly. She did check blood pressure, pulse and did a questionnaire. She does this each time. I don't depend on her for my medical care but it sure is great when they recognize something that needs to be treated by my PCP. Why isn't dental insurance as available as health insurance?

    December 16, 2011 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. snowdogg

    Dentists should stick to dental problems.

    December 16, 2011 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. AS

    As an emergency dentist, I see close to 600 patients per month with dental emergencies in my clinic. I do blood pressure checks and ask most of my patients a few health-related questions such as when was the last time they saw a physician and if they did for what reason etc etc. If I suspect anything, I ask them to see their physicians before any dental work can be done on them. In the past two years alone, I can recall four patients that come back to me and thank me for the screening and referring them to physicians. Two of them ended up having heart surgeries few days later while one was diagnosed with very enlarge heart and the fourth one was diagnosed with a dilated ascending aorta along with stenotic bicuspid valve. On a daily basis our clinic refers patients with undiagnosed hypertension to get medical clearance for dental work. Majority of these patients are very hypertensive and are unaware of their hypertension. I believe initial screening should be done on every new patient to best serve our patients and to prevent any potential in-office medical emergency as well as post operative complications.

    December 16, 2011 at 02:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. DDS

    A dentist gives injections of medicine in areas of the human skull, uses a scalpel to cut soft tissue in the human mouth, cuts away bone from the jaws to expose and remove teeth, carries malpractice insurance, spends 8 years in school and prescribes controlled substances at will. Sounds like a doctor to me.

    December 16, 2011 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. The_Mick

    Once again, we'd be adding costs on the wrong end of things if we did this. 23% of 25% is less than 6% of the population who see a dentist but don't see a doctor. Odds are that they can't afford to see a doctor so even a smaller percentage -perhaps 1% to 2% would do a follow-up if the dentist finds high blood pressure. But to apply that to ALL patients, you raise the cost of seeing a dentist and by 50x that needed since perhaps only 2% benefit. We'd be MUCH better off if that money was put to use directly making those patients more likely to visit a medical doctor. My family doctor did virtually nothing when I developed high blood pressure except prescribe pills. I switched doctors to one who said, "Let's find out WHY you have high blood pressure." The result was the discovery I had type-II diabetes. So even seeing a doctor doesn't guarantee proper care.

    December 16, 2011 at 08:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. patNY

    Once a year my dentist performs an oral cancer screening test. Given that HPV is so prevalent, and you can get it in your mouth as well, and certain strains cause cancer, it is very important. It involves swishing a vinegar like solution in my mouth for a minute, and the dentist looking throughout my mouth with a special light. Any pre-cancerous growths will light up like day glow. If you have one, you simply get it removed before it turns into oral or esophageal cancer, which can be cured, but you can end up with no lower jaw and or a completely disfigured head and neck.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. becca

    Yes, it's a good idea for dentists to provide some health screenings that are correlated with dental health. They already do head/neck exams and identify any possible skin cancers or abnormalities in these areas. This is important, especially in public health, since dentists can provide detailed info to patients that might not recieve regular care.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. No Dodctor

    The unwritten assumption of this article is that it is beneficial to see a doctor every year. Studies have shown no benefit to annual exams excepting young children and the elderly.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portland tony

      You have solved the medical insurance problem facing America. No one needs to see a doctor unless they're under six or over sixty five.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse |
  39. ARD

    I don't know if it's just me, but my dentist comes in only for a minute or so. Gives hygienist all the instructions and vanishes from the room after that, and is not to be found anywhere until my next appointment. I get the feeling that dentists don't even spend enough time with the patients so how can someone trust them with their complete health care.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Allie

    I find the numbers surprising, since I know many people who postpone needed dental work because insurance doesn't cover it.

    Considering that untreated dental problems cause heart disease, among other things, it seems absurd to put dentists on one side and all other doctors on another side. Dentists should be regarded as a type of doctor and dental work should be properly regarded as medical care.

    December 16, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. CEW

    My father is a dentist. He once sent a patient to a regular doctor because of the herpes sores on the patient's mouth – he had such a bad case of oral herpes, that my father suspected he probably had it, ah, down south, too. So he just asked the patient if he had the sores elsewhere, and the patient confirmed the existence of sores below the belt, so Dad told him to go see his doctor. Fortunately, my father had private exam rooms, so the conversation was private. And no, he didn't ask to see the sores!

    December 16, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Tex71

    The way things are going in America, before too long people will be getting their teeth pulled and appendices removed at the barber shop just like they used to 200 years ago. The USA has the best health care in the world for the few people rich enough to buy it. For the rest of us, it is a cruel joke.

    December 16, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Inciteful

    We are in critical need of tort reform. I can see where what this author proposes would increase the liability and therefore the malpractice insurance costs of dentists. So, companies that peddle malpractice insurance and lawyers would love for this to happen. Exposure to increased liability and insurance would result in higher costs/premiums for patients, who would then avoid going to the dentist just as they avoid going to a physician...they can't afford it.

    December 16, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. stillkicking

    Why don't we just arrest people who don't get annual health screenings and get it over with. Obviously the daily reminders on TV as to how to take an aspirin, how to prepare for winter, how to fry an egg and how to put one foot in front of the other (apparently this is called walking) have fallen short - in fact, I don't think I ever see anything related to health on TV at all.

    December 16, 2011 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. DDS

    I, a measly little dentist, cut open a persons gums today, used a rotary instrument to remove jaw bone to gain access to an impacted tooth, sutured and prescribed lortab, I think the general public is grossly misinformed concerning the training etc of dentists

    December 16, 2011 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • IgM

      No one on here is questioning your training in terms of performing dental procedures, it's all the other medical interventions that people are worried about...

      December 19, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
  46. MISS MUFFET

    yes educate them further though it makes sense the teeth are one of the most important elements of the body

    December 16, 2011 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Paper

    If not for a very diligent dentist, my husbands thyroid cancer would not have been diagnosed. After noticing a lump, recommended hubby immediately contact his physician for evaluation. Turned out Medullary Thyroid Cancer – thank god for the excellent dentist we have and that he cared enough to send hubby to physician! Prognosis good.

    December 16, 2011 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. CP

    In our Dental Practice we have sent many patients out of our office and directly to their PCD just from the blood pressure exam we do on every patient.

    December 17, 2011 at 05:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Elizabeth

    No thank you. It will only give them another reason to charge more. Around here (Northeast) a crown is about 1400. This is just plain robbery, and it explains the state of people's teeth in poorer areas of the country. Cheaper to get it pulled than to fix it.
    When will teeth be considered part of the body and dental insurance cover more than $1000 a year in treatment? That's one set of exrays, 2 cleanings and 300 left over towards that crown, or getting a tooth pulled instead.
    As a single mom for 12 yrs, my kids got check ups and all they needed, braces, etc. I had 6 teeth pulled to save the money for their teeth. While I'd love implants, it would be 18,000 to get 6 of them.
    Just plain robbery.

    December 17, 2011 at 05:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. onyxnuk

    All dentistry is elective and affordable. You need to reorder your priorities. Give up Netflix, HBO, etc. Get your movies at the library for free. Stop buying soda pop, candy, beer, vacations, lottery tickets. See if there is a dental school in your area or a low cost clinic. Your teeth are not just for cosmetics, they are the first in the digestive process. Don't play the victim when there are solutions.

    December 17, 2011 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.