John C. Chao, D.D.S.

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press

Treating "GUM POCKETS" Means More Money In Your Pocket And Less Cost For Overall Health Care

A new study in the November issue of the Journal of Periodontology (JOP) found that prevention of periodontal (gum) diseases may lead to savings on not only dental costs, but also medical care costs. Periodontal disease is a condition where gums and the supporting bone are lost during the inflammatory process associated with the bacterial infection generally found in gum crevices called, "gum pockets." When these pockets deepen, teeth are often lost. Treating "gum pockets" not only lowers the risk of tooth loss, but may also lead to general health benefits for the whole body. This is because periodontal (gum) diseases have been linked to systemic health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory problems.

The JOP study conducted in Japan, examined the effect of periodontal diseases on medical and dental costs in 4,285 patients over a 3.5 year time span. The patients were between the ages of 40-59. Researchers found that cumulative health care costs were 21% higher for those patients with severe periodontal disease (periodontitis) involves bone loss and diminished attachment around the teeth.

"While previous studies have evaluated the potential link between periodontal diseases and other systemic conditions, this study provides an interesting analysis of total health care costs and the financial impact of having periodontal diseases," explained JOP editor Kenneth Kornman, DDS. "The research suggests that patients with severe periodontal diseases incur higher overall health care expenses as compared to those patients with no periodontal disease. Prevention of periodontal disease may be very important in overall health, and this study suggests that it may also indirectly translate into lower total health care costs."

"Everyone is looking for ways to reduce health care costs," said Susan Karabin, DDS, President of the American Academy of Periodontology, "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 disease can be treated using simple non-surgical techniques which can restore your mouth to a healthy state."

To prevent periodontal disease, the American Dental Association recommends a visit to the dentist every six months for examination and teeth cleaning. More frequent visits and treatments may be necessary when periodontal disease is diagnosed. Seeing your dentist regularly is not only good for your teeth and your teeth, but also your pocket book.

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