THE ‘DENTAL DETECTIVE’ AND SYSTEMIC DISCOVERIES
something about it didn’t seem quite right? Perhaps she displayed
difficulty in the simple task of grasping for a pen during routine
paperwork. These could all be signs of something greater—
Alzheimer’s, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or chronic
fatigue syndrome. If ever in doubt, suggest a check-up.
The practice of interdisciplinary care is always evolving. Dentistry
and dental hygiene are vital in the process as a whole. As the connection between periodontal disease and systemic disease becomes
more widely understood, we need to consider our approach to diagnosis as it relates to systemic conditions.
While working for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless in
Denver, Colorado, I got to see firsthand how this type of practice
might look in the real world: clinics that offer medical, dental, vision,
and pharmacy care all in one place. A unique look into integrative
medicine, where a patient comes in for a medical exam and the
dental hygienist on staff steps in for an oral evaluation, providing
real-time triage assessments and aiding in the overall diagnosis of
the patient. In some cases, the patient might be sent down the hall
for immediate extraction and infection control.
We’re gaining ground in a wider worldview and awareness of
overall health. Patients care that we care. If you see a problem,
let them know of your concerns and advise them to get seen by
their primary care physician.
I challenge you to be your very best detective, keeping an eye
out for clues. You could save a life in the process, and I assure
you there is no greater reward!
Chris Bustamante, RDH, is a traditional dental hygienist in Denver. His
passion for research and his love for writing have transformed his life both
personally and professionally. While working toward completing his first science
fiction novel, he writes on his personal blog and for various publications. He
can be contacted at Cjbauthor@gmail.com.
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10 Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s Disease. National Parkinson Foundation website. http://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/10-early-warning-signs
About ALS - Symptoms and Diagnosis. ALS Association website. http://www.alsa.
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10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s Association. http://
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