Countless studies have revealed the importance of oral health in regards to overall wellbeing. And yet, most general practitioners neglect their patients’ mouths during routine check-ups. In the following article, we will detail how patients and practitioners alike could benefit from an increased emphasis on oral health care.
The Benefits of General Practitioners Studying Oral Care
Despite the wealth of knowledge available, most medical schools do not have a comprehensive oral health care program. Instead of being viewed from an overall health perspective, oral care is often viewed as its own subject, separate from the rest of the body.
However, we now have advanced knowledge of the many ways issues regarding the mouth, teeth, and gums can affect a patient’s overall wellbeing. For example, we know that cavities, plaque, yellow teeth, and bad breath can be extremely detrimental to one’s mental health. But perhaps even more alarming is the connection between oral health and the cardiovascular system. Given the growing body of evidence that suggests periodontal diseases can lead to life treating conditions such as heart attack and stroke, we believe that general practitioners should take a stronger interest in their patients’ oral health1.
Protecting Vulnerable Individuals
A recent study showed that 35% of adults in America have not visited a dentist in the past year1. However, a much higher percentage regularly visits their general practitioner. For this reason alone, doctors should perform at least a rudimentary evaluation of their patients’ mouths, perhaps referring them to a dentist for more serious examination if necessary. Potentially serious issues could be identified much earlier, giving the patient proper time to avoid complications down the line1.
Additionally, oral diseases disproportionally affect low income communities and communities of color, including the Latino community and African-American community2. Tooth decay is nearly twice as prevalent compared to average amongst these populations. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that every effort is made to prevent serious complications.
How Training Should Be Implemented
Due to the complexities of this area of the body, General Practitioners should not be expected to become experts. Instead, they should be given the tools needed to identify basic issues. This way, they will be able to identify problem areas and refer their patients to qualified dental professionals who can provide the proper care. This would be beneficial to all parties involved, most notably the patient, who will have one more resource to help ensure they are living a healthy life.
- (2019, January 22). Study: 35% haven’t visited dentist in past year: Gregory A. Balog DDS. Gregory A. Balog, D.D.S. https://www.monroemichigandentist.com/study-35-of-americans-havent-visited-the-dentist-in-the-past-year
- Feierabend-Peters, J., & Silk, H. (2022, January 1). ¿Por qué deberían los médicos de cabecera aprender a hacer exámenes Bucales de Rutina? Journal of Ethics | American Medical Association. https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/por-que-deberian-los-medicos-de-cabecera-aprender-hacer-examenes-bucales-de-rutina/2022-01
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