Lifewatch: Dentist detections

CHICAGO -- Some people are learning about their risk for heart disease and diabetes by sitting in a dental chair.

Dentists are branching out by buying tests that can detect all kinds of problems that aren't related to your teeth.

According to the dentists, they aren't practicing medicine, they're offering an early warning system that serves as a safety net for patients and their doctors.

Dr. Ronald Schefdore often tests patients for cholesterol, diabetes, and C-reactive protein, also known as CRP.  It detects inflammation which is a potential symptom of heart disease.

In fact, he markets these tests to other dentists.  It's a business venture: and he says a mission.

"We estimate that over two million people could be helped if dentists were to incorporate these tests in their office," said Dr. Schefdore.

Many Americans who feel fine will still go to the dentist, while putting off a doctor's visit. Which is why gum infection, a symptom of diabetes, may first be detected during a regular dental checkup.

A downfall to the tests is that, depending on who you go to, the tests can add hundreds of dollars to your dental bill.  Those bills are not generally covered by insurance.

Reported by Kristy Ondo