Dental X-rays effectively identify stroke risk

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General dentists from across the United States exchanged vital information today showing that dental X-rays, known as panoramic radiographs, used for oral health examinations, are effective in detecting some cases of clinically significant carotid artery stenosis, or blockages in the carotid artery, which can potentially lead to stroke.

The findings were presented by Laurie Carter, DDS, PhD, professor and director of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology and director of Graduate Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry at the Academy of General Dentistry's 53rd Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Periapical or bitewing radiographs are commonly used by dentists to observe the entire structure of the mouth, including a patient's teeth, roots, jaw and facial placement. These X-rays also can help determine the presence or degree of periodontal disease, bone infections and many abnormal growths, such as cysts and tumors. A panoramic X-ray reveals in greater detail the upper and lower teeth and parts of the jaw in a single image. More importantly, a patient's carotid arteries, located on each side of the neck, pass through the region visualized on the panoramic X-ray, making it possible for a dentist to view these significant blockages, which appear as patchy white spots.

"These findings demonstrate the increasingly important role that a general dentist can play in the management of a person's overall health," said Dr. Carter. "They also show the importance of routine visits to your general dentist to promote early detection of potentially life-threatening events like heart attack and stroke."

Dr. Carter's presentation further supports the findings of Dr. Dov M. Almog, DMD, an associate professor, Department of Prosthodontics, and medical director, Craniofacial Diagnostic Imaging at Eastman Dental Center at the University of Rochester in New York, which were published in the November- December 2004 issue of General Dentistry. Dr. Almog's study confirmed the utility of panoramic X-rays in the detection of other more serious health concerns that may need to be closely monitored by a physician.

According to a survey commissioned by the Academy of General Dentistry, 63 percent of baby boomers, ages 45-64, with an oral symptom considered to be a key indicator of a more serious health condition were unaware of the symptom's link to the condition. In that same study, nearly half (49 percent) of baby boomers indicated that they do not visit the dentist every six months and almost one-third (31 percent) never go to the dentist or only go in an emergency. It is surprising that this demographic fails to recognize that oral health holds valuable clues that could negatively impact their overall health and well-being. AGD recommends visiting the dentist every six months to maintain good overall health.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States today and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. More than 750,000 new or recurrent strokes occur annually and treatment for strokes costs the U.S. $30 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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