Each year, nearly 20 million Americans fail to pay a visit to their general practitioner, but they do see their dentist, reveals a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. For these people, dentists may be the only medical experts able to spot the warning signs of chronic illness. Oral complications can signal a wide range of larger health concerns, including sexually transmitted diseases, eating disorders, and diabetes. So, should dentists begin offering routine medical checkups? It’s not a bad idea, says Sheila M. Strauss, PhD, the lead author of the study. Not only would it be beneficial to patients, it could help dentists: a similar mandate for Swedish dentists belonging to a particular health plan established participants as caring more deeply about their patients, to the benefit of their practices.

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