Lowering Medical Costs For Diabetes, Heart Disease & More

Posted on Jan 26, 2015 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Could treating periodontal disease reduce medical costs and hospitalizations for pregnant patients and those with diabetes and heart disease? Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently conducted a study to determine if gum disease therapy could prevent or lessen some of the adverse effects associated with diabetes, coronary artery disease, arthritis and pregnancy.

Researchers analyzed medical and dental insurance records of 338,891 patients with periodontal disease from 2005 to 2009. Participants were either pregnant or had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, cerebral vascular disease or rheumatoid arthritis. The average age was 49 years with women comprising 45% of the patients and men 55%. Patients with gum disease who had 4 or more periodontal treatments in 2005 were compared to patients who were untreated.

Findings showed most had lower medical costs and hospitalizations following periodontal treatment. Although no significant difference was found among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, patients with diabetes or cerebral vascular disease had significantly lower medical costs, averaging 40% reduction in costs. The biggest decrease was among pregnant women who received treatment, having 74% lower medical costs than those with untreated gum disease. Coronary artery disease patients had nearly 11% lower costs.

Periodontal disease bacteria can enter the bloodstream of otherwise healthy patients through diseased and torn oral tissues. The bacteria has been found to create an inflammatory reaction elsewhere in the body, perhaps triggering or increasing severity of serious health problems.

So, back to our initial question: Could routine assessment and treatment of periodontal disease help to lower severity and costs of specific medical conditions? While the study’s findings do not prove that periodontal disease treatment directly improves the condition of these health problems, ensuring good periodontal health for those affected seems to provide positive outcomes when compared to those who do not have treatment.

As research continues, we will keep you up-to-date on the latest findings that link oral health to your overall health. In the meantime, pay particular attention to your gum health. If your gums bleed when you brush or you have tender, swollen spots on gums around teeth, call for an examination as soon as possible: (828) 274-9440.

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