Preventing gum disease can save teeth

[SIZE=+1][/SIZE]By Charnicia Huggins

New York - Severe gum disease is associated with increased health care costs for not only dental care but also inpatient hospital care, according to a team of Japanese researchers.

Their study findings were presented recently during the 84th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, held in Brisbane, Australia.

Periodontal disease is one of the most common chronic diseases, yet researchers had not previously determined whether it is also associated with increased inpatient, outpatient and other health care costs.

To investigate, Dr R Ide and colleagues from the University of Occupational and Environmental Health, in Kitakyushu, Japan, examined health insurance claims and other information from the health and dental examinations of 4 285 civil officers, aged 40 to 59.

They divided the officers into moderate, severe, or no gum disease groups and assessed their medical and dental costs during the following 3,5 years.

The investigators found that overall costs were 21 percent higher for men and women with severe gum disease than for those with no gum disease.

Participants with severe periodontitis were also more likely to be admitted to the hospital than those with less severe gum disease, study findings indicate.

For men in particular, annual hospital costs were 75 percent higher for those with severe periodontal disease than for those with no sign of gum disease.

For subjects with severe gum disease, annual visits to the dentist were twice as common among men with and nearly 50 percent more common among women than for counterparts, the researchers note.

Further, the costs associated with these visits increased along with the increased severity of gum disease.

"Periodontal disease impacts health care cost increases through not only dental care costs but also inpatient care costs, especially in males," the researchers conclude.

According to Dr Kenneth A Krebs, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, "it's not surprising that periodontal diseases may be associated with increased health care costs and dental costs because periodontal disease may be linked to general health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, pre-term low birthweight and respiratory disease."

"That said, one might suppose that early detection and treatment of periodontal diseases may help reduce healthcare costs," he told Reuters Health.

"Good at-home oral hygiene and routine professional care, including regular periodontal examinations, can go a long way toward preventing periodontal diseases and/or catching and treating them in the early stages," he added.