Kishore Nayak was understandably confused when his dentist recommended he see a cardiologist for a potentially serious heart condition.
"It was surprising to hear a dentist talking about my heart," Nayak said. "Since I had persistent problems with my gums, he said there was a good chance I had plaque buildup in my arteries. And that could be deadly."
It turned out to be excellent advice.
When a cardiologist peeked into Nayak's heart with a tiny camera, he discovered a 70-percent blockage in Nayak's right coronary artery. Within hours of the prognosis, Nayak was in surgery getting a stent inserted to free up the blockage.
"That advice from my dentist very likely could have saved my life," said Nayak, who previously served as interim chief information officer for Delta Dental of Colorado.
At the time of his surgery, Nayak was 48 years old and perfectly healthy by most measures. Although he had high cholesterol, he ate right and kept active, even finishing a half marathon.
His periodontist later educated him on some basic health science: Inflammation in the gums is a strong indicator for inflammation elsewhere in the body, including the heart.
"It was surprising," said Nayak, who lives in Broomfield with his wife and 8-year-old daughter. "We never connect oral health to your overall health. But there is a connection."
Nayak has a family history of heart disease. His father suffered a heart attack when he was about 60 years old while farming in Nayak's hometown in India. The village, Kaudkola, is about 50 miles from the closest hospital in Cuttack. His father took an hours-long bus ride to get himself to the hospital, where doctors performed a triple-bypass surgery.
"He's running strong at 84 now," Nayak said. "He was one of the lucky ones."
Nayak had a similar positive outcome from his heart surgery. After doctors placed a stent in his artery, they gave him the all-clear to continue with his life as normal.
"I encourage everyone I know to learn more about the connection between oral and overall health," Nayak said. "In my case, this knowledge very well could have saved my life."
Watch more of Kishore Nayak's story
Americans Want Dental Insurance to Be Part of Health Policy Conversations
Ninety-percent of Americans view dental insurance as either a welcome or critical part of the public debates around health care legislation, and 85% support legislation that helps improve access to dental insurance for all Americans.
Current discussions about health care reform present an opportunity to improve dental coverage for the American population. By including dental coverage for all adults and children, Americans will see:
- Improved health outcomes.
- Reduced medical costs.
- Greater well-being.
As a leading dental insurance provider, Delta Dental can provide valuable insight as new policies are developed and considered.