Dentists can do more than just taking care of your oral health - they can help determine your risk for fatal heart attack, says a new study.

The study followed 200 patients (101 women and 99 men) in private dental practices in Sweden whose dentists used a computerized system, “HeartScore,” to calculate the risk of a patient dying from a cardiovascular event within a 10-year period.

The system, designed by the European Society of Cardiology, measures cardiovascular disease risk in persons aged 40-65 by factoring the person’s age, sex, total cholesterol level, systolic blood pressure and smoking status.

Patients with HeartScores of 10 percent or higher, meaning they had a 10 percent or higher risk of having a fatal heart attack or stroke within a 10-year period, were told by dentists to seek medical advice regarding their condition.

12 patients in the study, all of them men, had HeartScores of 10 percent or higher. All women participating in the study had HeartScores of 5 percent or less.

Of the 12 male patients with HeartScores of 10 percent or higher, nine sought further evaluation by a medical care provider who decided that intervention was indicated for six of the patients. Two patients did not follow the dentist’s recommendation to seek further medical evaluation and one patient was only encouraged by his dentist to discontinue smoking. Physicians for three patients were not able to confirm their risk for cardiovascular disease.

All 200 patients enrolled in the study were 45 years of age or older with no history of cardiovascular disease, medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes and had not visited a physician during the previous year to assess their glucose, cholesterol or blood pressure levels.

The researchers conclude that oral health care professionals can identify patients who are unaware of their risk of developing serious complications as a result of cardiovascular disease and who are in need of medical interventions.

The study has been published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

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