Regular visits to the dentist may do more than just brighten your smile, they may also lead to fewer hospital visits and trips to the emergency room, as well as lower your medical costs. These are the conclusions from a three-year Cigna dental study that looked at the potential benefits of treated periodontal (gum) disease. The findings were recently presented at the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) conference in Seattle. IADR is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing research and increasing knowledge to improve oral health worldwide.
“Advancing our understanding of how treatment for gum disease can affect overall health may help lead to the creation of evidence-based treatment standards that could benefit millions of people and simultaneously help reduce medical costs,” said Dr. Robert Genco, a member of Cigna's Dental Clinical Advisory Panel.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), periodontal disease and tooth decay are the two biggest threats to dental health and are mostly seen in adults. Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. Half of Americans aged 30 or older – 64.7 million people – have periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease.
Cigna’s study looked at periodontal patients from 2009 through 2011. On average, patients who received gum disease treatment had better outcomes than patients without treatment. Hospital admission rates were 149 per thousand (67%) lower, emergency room visits were 100 per thousand (54%) lower, and medical costs were $1,020 per year (28%) lower.“These results suggest that treating gum disease has benefits beyond better oral health and may also help to control medical costs for some patients,” said Clay Hedlund D.D.S., Cigna's dental director. “We are pleased to be part of the dental community’s ongoing research into the links between good oral health and good overall health.”