Posts Tagged ‘Heart Health’

A Personal Story: No Dentist in 10 Years – Sam, White River Junction

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Sam is 44 and lives in White River Junction, Vermont. It has been over ten years since he has seen a dentist. He just moved to the area in January, and he does not know where to start looking. He gets $700 a month from disability and does not know whether dental care is covered for him. He has teeth he knows need attention, because he can see that they’re decaying. In the past when this has happened, they have been painful and needed to be pulled. He’s also got one that is crooked and one that is chipped. Since Sam has lost nine or ten teeth already, he suspects he will need dentures at some point. He’s planning on asking his doctor later this week when he goes to the hospital for heart surgery if they know of any dentists he could see.

A Personal Story: Physical Health Keeping Her from Dentist – Margaret, Lebanon

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Margaret is 96 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Margaret has had false teeth for the past six years, and she had a new upper plate made a few months ago for which she paid $1,000. The problem is that they don’t fit properly and they hurt her after being in for an hour. She wants to go back to the dentist, but she can’t get there, because she has a heart condition, hasn’t been out of the house all winter, and has to be very careful not to catch cold. She normally winters in Florida, and her body is not used to the New Hampshire cold. With no upper teeth, she has to watch what she eats. She has been able to bring her weight up from 101lbs to 113, but would like to gain a bit more so that she’s at 120. Margaret is hoping to get back to the dentist to get her upper plate fixed or remade when the weather is better.

A Personal Story: Routine Maintenance Too Expensive – Doris, Lebanon

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Doris is in her 80s, lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and has had a lot of dental work done over the past year. She’s been able to afford it by pulling the money from other areas. However, the routine maintenance is more difficult to afford: “I don’t go to the cleanings often enough. They’re expensive.” Doris knows about a dental clinic she could go to but you need a car and need to be able to go at night. Her daughter has a car, but can’t drive at night, so Doris has no way to get there.


Doris doesn’t understand why dental work is more expensive than doctor’s visits. “The doctors adjust their fees, but the dentists won’t … because it’s nonessential. They think the doctor’s more essential. But if you don’t have good dental work, you’re going to need a doctor very soon. That poison from an abscessed tooth goes all through your body. You’d probably die from it. I don’t think that teeth are not important. A lot of people don’t take care of them.”


A Personal Story: Heart Valve Replacement & Dental Health – Bob, West Lebanon

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Bob is 61 and lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. Five years ago, Bob discovered that he had some teeth that were loosening, one of which fell out. Recent x-rays and exams indicate that due to bone deterioration, Bob needs a total of ten teeth extracted, with a partial bridge replacement on the bottom.

Bob has also had a heart valve replacement, which complicates his dental care. He needs to take anticoagulation drugs regularly, as well as amoxycillin before dental procedures to make sure there’s no infection in the valve. The nurse from Bob’s anticoagulation program told him he needed to give himself subcutaneous anticoagulant injections twice a day five days prior to getting his dental work done, a procedure Bob is not comfortable with. He researched his condition online, finding recent articles which do not suggest the necessity of the injections, and now doesn’t know who to trust or who to believe.

Bob also lives with PTSD, and carries cards which read: “I experience symptoms of post traumatic stress including higher anxiety in situations where I feel helpless, out of control, and where my choices are limited or where I feel invisible. Please give me visibility and voice as well as engage me around how I can help you help me in our time together.” Bob sees the situation around his dental care as one where his choices are limited, and one where he has not been included in the decision making process: “My way of conceptualizing it is that one component of the health care system is going to decide for me what my choices are going to be without allowing me to make an informed consent decision.… The idea of injecting myself with an air bubble without being a phlebotomist is stressing my post traumatic stress.”

USA Weekend, 2012 Resolutions: “Get Your Teeth Cleaned”

Monday, February 20th, 2012

From “The 8 best ways to make your resolutions a reality in 2012″, USA Weekend, December 29, 2011:

Get your teeth cleaned.

If preventing heart disease isn’t on your list of resolutions, add it now:  It’s the No. 1 cause of death in the USA. And if you are scared of dentists, it’s time to get over it.  New research presented at the American Hearth Association’s Scientific Sessions in November found that people who had their teeth cleaned by a dentist or hygienist had a 24% lower risk of heart attack and 13% lower risk of stroke.  One possible reason: Professional cleanings appear to reduce inflammation-causing bacterial growth that can lead to heart disease or stroke.  More tips to protect your heart: Stop smoking, eat healthy, move more, reduce stress and limit alcohol.

A Personal Story: What Value 4 Teeth? – Nurse Nancy’s Clients, West Topsham

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Nancy is a nurse who has been working with pregnant women, babies, and children in the Upper Valley for the past eighteen years. She, herself, lives in West Topsham, Vermont. Many of her clients do not have access to the dental care they need. She remembers one client of hers, a twenty two year old mother of three, who had advanced decay and had to have all of her teeth pulled. This was paid for by Medicaid, but the dentures she needed were not, “which is a rather sad commentary on looking at a twenty two year old woman who we’re now going to ask to go out and get a job, and she had no teeth.” Fortunately, Nancy was able to find a private donor so the woman could get dentures made.

Another woman Nancy works with had an abscessed tooth. She went to a dentist who extracted the tooth and in the process did a large amount of nerve damage. In trying to help this woman get follow-up care, Nancy found that that care was non-existent. “It has now been eight months. She’s still in horrible pain. She has altered movement in her jaw.” Trying to find care for this woman has been like, “calling in circles.” The woman has Vermont Medicaid but one clinic wouldn’t see her because they only accepted Medicaid from Chittenden county. Another clinic in New Hampshire wouldn’t see her because she had Vermont Medicaid. The one doctor that did see her referred her to a nerve specialist in Boston. When she did finally see him it was too late for him to do anything about the nerve damage. Nancy describes Medicaid and dental services for adults as “pathetic…basically, they will pull your teeth out.”

Another of Nancy’s clients, a young woman who just had her second baby, went to the dentist during her pregnancy. She found out that she had cavities and needed work on nearly all of her teeth. She was told if she didn’t get the work done right away she could wind up losing her teeth. She’d used up her year’s cap (on her insurance) and so she had to decide whether to have teeth pulled out, which would be covered by Medicaid, or to wait until January, hoping that at that time she could have more work done, and that her teeth would last that long.

“It’s really really frustrating and I always end up feeling like we don’t value people’s teeth, which are such a huge part of who they are. The impact of dental infection and gum disease on health is huge – I don’t even think we have a clue about the impact.” According to Nancy it not only affects cardiac health but also prenatal health. “But nobody acknowledges or is willing to take that on.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

Healthy Teeth for a Healthy Heart

Monday, September 27th, 2010

A new report from the British Medical Journal states that brushing your teeth may be an important way to help your heart. Scottish researchers examined the toothbrushing habits of over 11,000 men and women over the course of eight years. Those individuals who rated their oral hygiene habits as poor (indicating that they “rarely/never brushed their teeth”) experienced a 70% increased risk of cardiovascular events versus the group reporting good oral hygiene. The group with poor brushing habits “also had increased concentrations of both C reactive protein and fibrinogen” which are considered markers of inflammation. The authors write that “inflammation plays an important role in the [development] of atherosclerosis, and markers of low grade inflammation have been consistently associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.” Although additional research has found a link between inflammation and heart disease, the authors are careful to state that “future experimental studies will be needed to confirm whether the observed association between oral health behavior and cardiovascular disease is in fact causal or merely a risk marker.”

Click here to read the full study.

Vanessa Hurley