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How Much Is a Front Tooth Really Worth?

The survey question proposed a far better deal than the Tooth Fairy ever did:

“If a very wealthy person came by and offered you money for a healthy front tooththat could be removed without pain, what’s the minimum you’d accept?”

More than 1,000 adults were asked that hypothetical question last month by the American Assn. of Endodontists, an organization of dentists who specialize in root canal therapy.

Respondents wanted $309,000, on average, for just one pearly white, said Joseph D. Maggio , the association president.

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Among respondents age 65 or older, 42% said they would accept no amount of money in exchange for a front tooth, Maggio added. “And 15% said they wouldn’t accept less than $1 million.”

Maggio said the findings surprised him. “When you consider that the value of the chemical components of a tooth is about 12 cents, that’s quite a return.” The survey results suggest the trend to preventive health now includes preservation of natural teeth, he added.

Counting Cholesterol

Knowing your total cholesterol count is an important first step in reducing heart disease risk. But it’s not enough information for some people, the director of the Framingham Heart Study claims.

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If your total cholesterol is 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood or higher, you should also ask your doctor to determine your level of high density lipoproteins (HDL), the so-called good cholesterol believed to have a protective effect against heart disease, says Dr. William Castelli, an epidemiologist who has directed the Framingham study for 10 years. Total cholesterol levels of 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood or below are generally considered “desirable.”

The basis for his recommendation: “Sixty percent of those with heart attacks in the Framingham study (which has followed 10,000 people since 1948) have cholesterol levels of 200-240.”

Agreed Dr. Richard J. Gray, director of surgical cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and adjunct associate professor of medicine at UCLA: “150 is a good guesstimate of a break point (above which consumers should ask for their HDL levels).”

The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL should be below 4.5, Castelli believes. To calculate the ratio, divide total cholesterol by HDL, Gray explained. For example: If your total cholesterol is 200 and your HDL 50, your ratio is 4.

Castelli’s recommendation deviates from national guidelines, and not everyone agrees that those with cholesterol levels above 150 need to know their HDLs.

“We have very strong reasons for not making that recommendation,” said Dr. DeWitt Goodman, chair of the now-defunct advisory panel convened by the federal government’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to establish cholesterol guidelines.

He cited weaker evidence of HDL-heart disease links and the inability of laboratories to execute such mass testing. The 1987 institute guidelines recommend that those with totalcholesterol of 240 or higher undergo more specific analysis of their LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol.


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