Why Isn’t Dental Health Considered Primary Medical Care?

The patient’s teeth appeared to be well cared for, but dentist James Mancini did not like the look of his gums. By chance, Mancini knew the man’s physician, so he raised an alert about a potential problem—and a diagnosis soon emerged.

“Actually, Bob had leukemia,” says Mancini, clinical director of the Meadville Dental Center in Pennsylvania. Though he wasn’t tired or having other symptoms, “his mouth was a disaster,” Mancini says. “Once his physician saw that, they were able to get him treated right away.”

Oral health is tightly connected to whole-body health, so Mancini’s hunch is not surprising. What is unusual is that the dentist and doctor communicated.

Historically, dentistry and medicine have operated as parallel fields: Dentists take care of the mouth, physicians the rest of the body. That is starting to change as many initiatives across the United States and other countries work to integrate oral and whole-body care to more effectively tackle diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint replacements and many other conditions. The exact relationship between health of mouth and teeth and physical ailments elsewhere in the body is not well understood and in some cases, is contentious—but experts agree there are links that should no longer be overlooked.

Source: Why Isn’t Dental Health Considered Primary Medical Care? / Smithsonian Magazine

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