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As Go the Health of Our Gums, So Goes the Dollars Spent on Our Overall Health Care

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Oral Health and Dollars Spent on Healthcare

As Go the Health of Our Gums, So Goes the Dollars Spent on Our Overall Health Care

December 26, 2007

By: Jean Johnson for Dental1











Take Action

  • Treat bleeding gums with as much attention as you would bleeding on any other part of the body.

  • If bleeding gums persist, see your dentist.

  • Brush in the mornings, after meals and snacks, and before bed.

  • Try an electric toothbrush.

  • Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash.

  • Floss daily to remove plague and keep gums healthy.


  • Not surprisingly the answer was yes, the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) reported. In a three and a half year study of more than 4,000 Japanese people ages 40 to 59, researchers found health care costs averaged 21 percent higher in those with severe periodontal disease.


    “Everyone is looking for ways to reduce health care costs,” said Susan Karabin, DDS, president of the AAP. “Especially those who are in an age category where they are more susceptible to periodontal diseases. Because of the relationship between the mouth and the rest of the body, treating periodontal disease may be one simple way to decrease total health care costs. If caught early, periodontal diseases can be treated using simply non-surgical techniques which can restore your mouth to a healthy state.”


    Editor of the Journal of Periodontology in which the results of the study were published, Kenneth Kornman, DDS, emphasized Karabin’s observation. “Prevention of periodontal disease may be very important in overall health, and this study suggests that it may also indirectly translate into lower health care costs.”


    Dot Graham is an artist in Des Moines, Iowa. “Since I’m self-employed, I carry my own health insurance. I’ll be 60 soon, and because they’ve raised my rates so mercilessly over the last five years, I decided to just have a major medical plan with a $5,000 deductible. So I basically pay for my own health care – doctor’s appointments and all the little things – because so far I haven’t spent more than the $5,000 in one year at which point the insurance would kick in. But my point is that paying my own way has made me more conscious of how much I spend. That’s why this study is important to me.”


    Graham added that the findings mirror her understanding of how people can take pro-active roles in maintaining their health. “From what I’ve gathered at my dentist’s, gum disease usually appears when the daily hygiene isn’t all that great. There are exceptions I guess, but largely it’s a matter of brushing and flossing every day and being diligent about checkups. Given that, it makes sense that people who look after their teeth and gums as well as they do their cars are going to be the same type of people who exercise, eat right, and keep their weight down – all the things they tell us to do to guard our health.”


    Graham acknowledges that health care problems don’t always arise from neglect. “Certainly that’s true. But then the study just came up with a 21 percent figure. If I was a betting woman, I’d wager that that 21 percent reflects the improvement in medical costs we could make if those of us who are a little sketchy around the edges – pun intended, I’m an artist remember – got more vigilant about taking care of their mouths.”


    Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee concur in a 2007 publication, Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body. “People with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to experience coronary artery disease. Additionally periodontal disease has been linked to preterm birth and low-birth weight, HIV, strokes, nervous disorders, and hepatitis C virus.”

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