The next time a patient rinses and spits at their local dentist's office, they might just be starting a process to save their teeth for years to come.
TV often shows how DNA testing helps solve murder cases, like viewers see on "Law and Order" or "CSI." But the procedure of exploring DNA is now getting some teeth in the dental field, too.
Simple dental DNA tests collect the bacteria in a person's mouth, allowing dentists to analyze that bacteria.
Four to five days from collection, dentists are given good idea of how to treat patients after studying the extent of the bacteria collected.
Such tests are considered one of the most significant improvements in dental medicine, according to dentist William Carmichael.
"It allows us to customize the treatment plan, make it specific for the individual patient," said Dr. Gabriel Rich.
In a world where three out of every four adults have some form of periodontal disease, Dr. Rich says if someone is a candidate for cardiac surgery or chemotherapy, the DNA testing results will show if the patient is at risk for infection.
Still, the test is not for everyone. Dr. Rich says dentists will have to assess patients' needs before going through with it, and because it's such a new concept, some insurance companies may not cover the $175 fee.
But Rich hopes enough people see the benefit in the process -- to put their money where their mouth is.
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