How the Dentist Helps Your Heart

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Story Updated: Dec 6, 2012

No matter how busy you are, here is another reason you should make time for regular dental visits: They can save your life.

Heart disease is the biggest killer of American women, and women who get adequate dental care reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems by at least one-third, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley. The study links artery-clogging plaque, a major cause of heart attack and stroke, to bacteria in the mouth.

The Berkeley study, which involved people over age 43, also found that while women receiving dental care reduced their cardiovascular risk by at least one-third, men did not see any heart health benefit. This may be because dental care has the most effect in the earliest stages of heart disease, says lead author Timothy Brown, Ph.D., a professor of health policy and management at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. Since women tend to develop heart disease about 10 years later than men, the women in the study were less likely to have advanced heart disease.

How can you tell if plaque is taking you down the wrong path? "If your gums bleed when you floss or brush, it's quite possible that bacteria are getting into the bloodstream that could lead to stroke or heart attack later in life," says Kevin Muench, a family dentist in Maplewood, N.J. So get to the dentist soon -- regular dental visits typically involve preventive procedures to keep gums healthy and guard against inflammation, which can create a portal into the bloodstream for bacteria.

And if you're not due back to the dentist in a while, follow the two cardinal rules of long-term health in the meantime to reduce your risk of heart disease and keep your smile healthy:

1. Slow down on sugar.

Sugar, long associated with cavities, is now being blamed for increasing risk of heart disease. Last year, the American Heart Association recommended limiting daily sugar intake to about 6 teaspoons for women and about 9 teaspoons for men.

2. Make flossing a habit.

Regular flossing may reduce risk of heart attack, according to a new study from University of Bristol in England. Flossing daily helps reach those areas of the mouth the toothbrush can't, protecting against inflamed gums, which open the door to dangerous bacteria that may trigger deadly heart disease.

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Dr. Dzwonczyk – Medical Director

Geriatric Medicine

NYS Veterans' Home at Oxford

Welcome to New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford
The New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford is a 242 bed facility located in Chenango County about thirty miles north of Binghamton NY. Situated on a sixty acre site, the Home has spectacular scenic views of rural countryland. We provide state of the art medical, nursing, psychosocial, and rehabilitative services to our residents. We also have several academic affiliations including the Upstate Medical Center College of Medicine/Clinical Campus at Binghamton.

About Us
The New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford is a long term care skilled nursing facility. We are located in Oxford NY, and we serve the Central New York Region. We provide care for veterans and their dependents. Our current building has 242 beds in seven different units, including our rehabilitation unit and our dementia unit. Our facility is clean and pleasant, and our staff is friendly and professional. We welcome you to a guided tour upon request!

Dr. Dzwonczyk – Medical Director

Dr. Dzwonczyk Receives Certification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Philip J. Dzwonczyk, MD has been certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Dr. Dzwonczyk joins more than nineteen hundred fellow physicians to have achieved such certification.

Hospice and palliative medicine is the medical discipline of the broad therapeutic model known as hospice and palliative care. The discipline and model of care are devoted to achieving the best possible quality of life for the patient and family throughout the course of a life-threatening illness through the relief of suffering and the control of symptoms. Hospice and palliative medicine helps the patient and family face the prospect of death assured that comfort will be a priority, values and decisions will be respected, spiritual and psychosocial needs will be addressed, practical support will be available and opportunities will exist for growth and development. Hospice in the United States is an organized program that provides palliative care for terminally ill patients and supportive services to patients, their families, and significant others.

Dr. Dzwonczyk is the medical director of the New York State Veterans Home in Oxford. He recently completed the Harvard Medical School Program in Palliative Care Education and Practice and has worked for many years as an internist and geriatrician practicing in central New York. Dr. Dzwonczyk received his undergraduate degree from the University of Scranton and his doctor of medicine degree from Jefferson Medical College. He trained in internal medicine and psychiatry at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and holds specialty certificates in Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine. He has achieved Certified Medical Director status from the American Medical Directors Association and is a Fellow of both the American College of Physicians and the American Geriatrics Society. Dr. Dzwonczyk has directed the medical care of patients at the New York State Veterans Home since 1993 and has been active as a medical educator. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Upstate Medical University and is active as a member of the faculty of the Geriatric Medicine Clerkship of the Clinical Campus in Binghamton. In addition to his interest in palliative care, Dr. Dzwonczyk has an interest in the evaluation and management of cognitive and mood disorders of the elderly.

The American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine was formed in 1995 to establish and measure the level of knowledge, attitudes and skills required for certification of physicians practicing hospice and palliative medicine. Eligibility requirements for certification are significant. In order to be eligible to sit for the certifying examination, applicants must have received prior major specialty certification, practiced at least two years following residency, worked as a member of an interdisciplinary team for at least two years and have directly participated in the active care of at least fifty terminally ill patients in the preceding three years. Alternatively, applicants must have completed specialty fellowship training in palliative medicine. The fellowship training program must be at least one year in length and must meet the established voluntary standards for such a program.

ABHPM conducts its Certification Examination in Hospice and Palliative Medicine annually at multiple sites through the United States. Currently, 1908 physicians have been certified by virtue of meeting certification requirements, including successful completion of this examination. A listing of currently certified physicians may be viewed on the Boards website at www.ABHPM.org.

Information on the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine may be obtained from the website at www.ABHPM.org or by call (301) 439-8001.

Welcome to New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford