Dentists Can Help Patients Fight Lyme Disease

Beaverton family dentist

This summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning that tick borne diseases are on the rise. This means that the prevention should be on all of our minds, including your Beaverton family dentist.

“From May through July, people will get more tick bites and tick borne diseases than any other time of year in the United States,” according to the CDC website. “Each year, more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported nationwide, while studies suggest the actual number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease is more likely about 300,000.”

Considering the health risks linked to Lyme and other tick borne diseases, avoiding and seeking treatment for these conditions is vital to protect our long-term health. But can your Beaverton family dentist really help patients fight against tick borne diseases? Yes, according to the CDC.

Dentists can help detect possible cases of Lyme disease. In some cases, patients may present facial pain and headaches that mimic a TMJ disorder. However, the CDC suggests that a dentist should consider Lyme disease as a possible cause of a patient’s discomfort if a patient complains of facial pain but has no specific oral health problem.

The majority of dental problems have easily identifiable causes. However, just because a patient may suffer from the symptoms of a common oral heal condition doesn’t necessarily mean that problem exists if not easily identified.

Protecting Patient Health

In a 1998 study conducted by the New Jersey Dental School’s University of Medicine and Dentistry titled “Lyme Disease Awareness for the New Jersey Dentist,” researchers wrote that “Symptoms associated with Lyme disease include headache and facial pain that often mimics dental pathology and temporomandibular disorders. Patients with complaints of vague, non-specific dental, facial, or head pain, who present with multisystemic, multitreatment history, are suspect.”

Another study from the same institute also stated, “Dental practitioners must be aware of the systemic effects of this often multiorgan disorder. Its clinical manifestations may include facial and dental pain, facial nerve palsy, headache, temporomandibular joint pain and masticatory muscle pain. The effects precipitated when performing dental procedures on a patient with Lyme disease must also be considered.”

According to the CDC, “Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat.”

Recognizing the symptoms of an underlying health condition is a common part of what your Beaverton family dentist provides patients during routine exams. Our mouths act like a window that allows your Beaverton family dentist a look into a patient’s overall health. Tooth pain, bleeding gums, and missing teeth can all serve to indicate a more severe underlying cause if you know the signs of what to look for. Just as your Beaverton family dentist can help to identify the signs of Lyme disease masquerading as something more benign, regular exams provides our team with the chance of helping to protect patient health in ways that extend beyond a great looking smile.