A dentist may be the first one to suspect health problems, including heart disease. A sore or painful jaw is one indicator of heart disease. There's also a connection between gum disease and heart problems. By eliminating a local infection involving a tooth or the gums, patients have been able to decrease blood pressure medications and improve overall health. New research is suggesting that people with gum disease are at higher risk for heart attacks. If bacteria in the infected gums dislodge, they can enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation. That in turn decreases the blood flow to the heart, increasing chances of a heart attack and aggravating high blood pressure.
Treating dental patients with heart disease can be challenging. Such patients may have multiple health problems that need to be addressed for dental professionals to provide safe and appropriate dental care. Dental clinicians should pay special attention to the patient’s medical history and review of systems.
Dental clinicians are not expected to establish a cardiology diagnosis or provide medical recommendations to patients. Such decisions should be left to a cardiologist or another physician. We have provided in-depth background information to broaden clinicians’ understanding of heart disease in their patients. By delivering dental care to this patient population, oral health care providers become part of their patients’ overall health care team.
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