An ounce of prevention…costs less than a pound of cure!

We all know, time is money…and in the case of your health, a few minutes of vigilant preventative care can add up to more than a few pounds of your hard-earned cash – and life. (Courtesy photo)

By Stephen Simpton, D.D.S.

Despite the recent House passage of the American Health Care Act (“Trumpcare”) – with its promise of comprehensive healthcare coverage and reform – draws closer to being a reality, does this really mean we’re on the brink of a healthful revolution in the United States?

A recent study conducted shows, despite having healthcare coverage either provided through employers or privately contracted, a startling percentage of Americans still suffer from lack of basic medical care! In a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately one third of Americans had problems affording recommended healthcare from their physicians – and one in five had current medical debt in excess of $1,000.

Whether an inability to afford prescriptions, opting-out of rehabilitative physical therapies or foregoing preventative – or more importantly, chronic-condition-mandated doctor office visits, Americans find themselves having to choose between their health and basics like food and shelter. This adds up to 75 million adults who struggle to pay their medical bills and almost half this number, 32 million, have reported taking a hit on their credit scores due to unpaid medical bills.

We can only hope increased access to healthcare coverage can bring us to a “healthier” place in our country. A key component, “expanded services,” represents one of the most significant leaps forward we can take, understanding the importance of that proverbial “ounce of prevention” preached for centuries!

You knew we’d finally get here… the dentist’s office! In a world where the “prevention road” leads us to better health, a trip to your neighborhood dentist, like The Smile Center, can take you a lot further than you might imagine.

As you have heard us say what may seem like countless times, your mouth is the gateway to your body. See, all those little “biotics” in your mouth we discussed in a previous column, can – and do – travel to the rest of your body. However, without ever going beyond your neck, your dentist can read indicators of up to 120 different medical conditions, just by performing a complete oral examination!

Those little “pockets,” which form between a tooth and your gum, provide those bacteria direct access to your bloodstream… and now, the rest of your body. But, what we didn’t talk about was how those gaps get there in the first place. These periodontal (dental-speak for anything related to your gums) pockets are indicators of gum disease – and surprisingly enough, 1 in 2 Americans suffers from some degree of periodontal disease!

Now, this is where it gets really interesting! Gum disease and its resulting inflammation have been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, pre-term births, heart disease, arterial blockage, strokes…and this is just our “Lucky 7 List.”

And your gums don’t tell the whole story, either. Your tongue carries all sorts of indicators your dental professional has been trained to read. Those bumpy taste buds can provide the perfect nesting place for microscopic bacteria, and if you forget to brush your tongue when you perform your twice-daily routine, then you’re giving those germs a free pass! But, just by looking at your tongue, your dentist will be able to see all sorts of problems – including why your partner continues to complain about your sleep-jarring snoring.

Additionally, Texas dentists must now screen for oral pathologies, which can detect the early stages of cancer. And, your dentist works as a true healthcare partner with your primary care physician or any specialists you may visit. Together, they can go a long way to ensuring your overall health.

And that brings us back around to where we began… access to adequate healthcare. Currently, about 31 million Americans don’t have dental healthcare. Many experts call this “the unspoken epidemic” and something we hope the American Health Care Act addresses. But weighing the investment of a comprehensive oral exam versus the possible costs of allowing a serious medical condition to go undetected, that ounce of prevention certainly costs a lot less than the eventual “pound of cure!”

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