New study puts dentists at ‘heart disease’ frontline

A dental expert claims that dentists are leading the way in the fight against cardiovascular disease with a study designed to spot the early-warning signs of a heart attack.

The study – published in this month’s Journal of the American Dental Association – followed 200 patients (101 women and 99 men) in private dental practices in Sweden whose dentists used a computerised system to calculate the risk of a patient dying from a cardiovascular event within a 10-year period.

The system – HeartScore – was designed by the European Society of Cardiology and measures cardiovascular disease risk in persons aged 40-65 by factoring the person’’s age, sex, total cholesterol level, systolic blood pressure and smoking status.

Patients with a HeartScore of 10% or higher were recommended to seek medical advice.
 
The patients were interviewed some 6-12 months after the study to discover how many of them had undergone a medical referral.

More than 50% who had a HeartScore of 10% or higher were found to have sought medical advice and received prescriptions for anti hypertensive medications.
 
The authors of the study concluded: ‘Dentists are health care professionals who are used to performing risk assessment to ascertain patients’ oral health.

‘Oral health care professionals can identify patients who are unaware of their risk of developing serious complications as a result of CVD and who are in need of medical intervention.’
 
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of British Dental Health Foundation, said: ‘This new study could put the dentist at the forefront of the fight against cardiovascular disease one of the biggest killers in the UK.
 
‘The majority of the population attend the dentist much more frequently than they do their doctor so placing the dentist at the centre of a preventive approach to help prevent heart disease would make a lot of sense.’
 
He added: ‘Screening in dental practice for risk factors for cardiovascular disease could both help to reduce the huge burden heart disease represents to the health service and would link in with a preventive approach to reduce gum disease and improve overall health and wellbeing.
 
‘It is important across all areas of health to take a preventive approach rather than just to treat symptoms when they arise, a message that applies equally to dental health.’
 
For further information on dental health, visit www.dentalhealth.org.

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