Treating gum disease may lessen the burden of heart disease, diabetes, other conditions
POSTED JULY 23, 2014, 3:47 PM
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
In the folk song “Dem Bones,” every bone is connected to the next one in line. Here’s an interesting wrinkle on that idea: The gum bone, or at least problems with it, are connected to all sorts of health problems.
Gum disease—which begins when the sticky, bacteria-laden film known as plaque builds up around your teeth—is closely linked to premature birth, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health problems. Now, a report in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that treating gum disease (also called periodontal disease) can lead to better health — as evidenced by lower health care costs and fewer hospitalizations — among people with common health conditions.
The study looked at health and dental insurance records from nearly 339,000 people, all of whom had periodontal disease and one of five conditions: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease (usually a stroke), rheumatoid arthritis, or pregnancy. Researchers found that people with four of the five conditions (all except rheumatoid arthritis) who had at least one periodontal disease treatment had lower medical costs and fewer hospitalizations within four years of the treatment compared with people who weren’t treated.
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