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On this Leap Year, children and adults should consider taking a leap out of American Heart Month (February) and into oral health care; the key here, though, is to make sure to leap back again. That’s because the connection between oral health care and the heart is enormous.

In fact, it’s not just the heart.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlights the relationship between the mouth and the body. “The opening line of the article says it all,” says Dr. Jay Samuels, reading from the December 2011 piece, “If your teeth could talk …,” by Melinda Beck.“’The eyes may be the window to the soul,’ the article begins, ‘but the mouth provides an even better view of the body as a whole. Some of the earliest signs of diabetes, cancer, pregnancy, immune disorders, hormone imbalances and drug issues show up in the gums, teeth and tongue—sometimes long before a patient knows anything is wrong.’ This is absolutely true,” concludes Samuels. Countless studies have shown a correlation between inflammation in the mouth and inflammation in the body.

Let’s just put it out there: The dentist is a “Toothsayer,” s/he can predict a person’s health future. And because more and more studies are finding a mouth-body connection, the dentist’s role in our overall health is profoundly changing. And with that change comes an attitude shift. The dentist is “winning” the medical popularity contest. The results of a recent study published in December in the “American Journal of Public Health,” show that Americans see their dentist morethan their doctor.  The study shows that 20 million Americans (6% of children and 9% of adults) went to their dentist in 2008 but not their doctor.

Unlike the untrained individual who is often blown away by a friend or co-worker flashing a gorgeous white smile, the “Toothsayer” knows better than to believe a white smile equals a healthy smile. “White doesn’t mean right,” says Samuels. “Beautiful, white teeth may be hiding cavities and gum disease. The things a dentist and dental hygienist look for during recall examinations usually lurk underneath those pearly whites. Diagnostic tools such as cavity detecting x-rays, gum measurements, and oral cancer exams are a must. We look for things that are not obvious to the naked eye, and are even more important than just making those teeth shine.”  

So, as we leap out of February on this Leap Year and into March and Spring and the smile that thoughts of May, may put on our faces, let’s remember that the mouth is the gateway to our body’s overall health. And our dentist is more than a person who sticks his/her hands in our mouths, twists and turns our tongues and prods at our teeth with sharp instruments. Our dentist is a “Toothsayer,” predictor of our bodies’ overall health.

LEAP, "LIKE," HELP & READ

And, Dr. Samuels is more than a Toothsayer, he’s a gift-giver. As Dr. Samuels leaps into oral health, he would like you to "leap into 'Likes.’” So, “Like” him on Facebook and when he reaches 250 "likes" on his FB page, he will give away, to one "likable" person, a complimentary Kindle Fire. Agree to recommend this promotion to your FB wall for two additional entries to win a Kindle Fire. Additionally, for each “Like,” Dr. Samuels will donate $1 to the Smiles for Life Foundation which funds children’s charities throughout the world, including the United States.

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