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Have a dental question for the doctor? Text it to “646464” (OHOHOH) during the TJMS.

Catrise Austin has been called the dentist to the stars, counting Toni Braxton, Anthony Anderson, Wendy Williams and Paula Abdul among her patients, and winning accolades for her celebrity and concierge service.

But Austin, author of a new book, “5 Steps to the Hollywood A-List Smile,” wants the average person to be educated about the importance of good dental health, as well as a winning grin.

Austin, who also is a highly sought-after dentistry expert and motivational speaker, created an educational program and dental consumer self-help guide and was the first dentist in the country to also offer HIV testing to patients during routine dental checkups.

Her attention to health issues beyond dentistry is warranted.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, oral health is related to other conditions, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and certain forms of cancer. Sometimes a dentist can detect a problem during a routine checkup before the symptoms become apparent to you or your physician.

The academy reported that even though approximately three out of four Americans suffer from some form of gum disease – from mild cases of gingivitis, to the more severe form known as periodontitis – only about three percent seek treatment for their gum disease.

Forty-eight percent of lower-income Americans (i.e., those who report household incomes of less than $20,000), according to one study, said they had not seen a dentist in the previous year. Further, one in eight Americans reports having difficulty with normal daily activities because of problems with his or her mouth, teeth and gums, according to the study, and half of Americans said they were currently experiencing one or more oral health conditions.

Community clinics and dental schools often offer low-cost options for those who put off going to the dentist because they lack health insurance. The academy also offers a free online risk assessment test.

“I work tirelessly, tirelessly to get information out…there is connection with your dental health and your overall health and my message and my passion is to get you guys to understand that and to know why it’s so important to go to the dentist,” Austin said when she was honored in 2010 with a BOSS Network award at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club in New York.

“And while it’s sexy to work with the entertainment industry,” Austin said, “my passion is to let you guys know that I am here for you.”

Click here for answers to your dental questions.

-Written by Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb