Fairport, Pittsford and Rochester, NY

So often we look back on an issue or problem thinking, “If only I’d known… wasn’t that obvious?” Unfortunately, this happens in health care. In the book, Beat the Heart Attack Gene, the authors tell the story of a patient named Camille for whom things went very wrong. Camille relied on an old, but still widely used screening technique to assess her risk of heart disease; ignored blatant signs, symptoms and risk factors; and even delayed by six hours seeking treatment once it was clear something was seriously wrong.
In reading the story of this patient, it seems obvious that she was suffering from or on the verge of a critical health event. Denial runs deep. It’s only natural to want to trust, believe and assume the best, but how confident are you that you’ve identified the risk factors in your life?
We’re all human. No doctor, dentist or practitioner can be infallible. However, in my practice I believe we have a responsibility to our patients to be as thorough as possible, embracing of the latest technology and astute to the subtle nuances that can be missed easily. For example, according to the authors the risk assessment tool employed to evaluate Camille has been known to inaccurately assess the risk of heart disease in 82% of women and 66% of men [Beat the Heart Attack Gene, page 8].
Without going into all the details behind the findings, I believe there is something important to be learned from this experience.

  1. The standard treatments, tools and methodologies used to evaluate risk may not be complete. Hence, as healthcare providers what we learned in medical or dental school should not be considered a license to earn (a living), rather an invitation to keep learning (continuously). It’s our moral obligation.
  2. Family history and genetics are important. “Over the past twenty years, an explosion of new research has revealed the key role that genetic factors play in determining cardiovascular risk.” [Beat the Heart Attack Gene, page 9]
  3. Obesity and blood sugar levels matter. According to the authors (and I believe this, too), “…the vast majority of heart attacks have the same root cause as type 2 diabetes.” [Beat the Heart Attack Gene, page 9]

Oral infection can be a predictor or indicator of other more serious health conditions as we’ve discussed. There is much more that could be said on this topic, but any further discussion should be had chairside. Identification of oral infection is an important foundation of my practice and a topic on which I am more than happy to expound.

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