Dental care can reduce health costs for people with diabetes and heart disease

To take the keys

  • New research links dental visits to regular health care costs.
  • The study looked specifically at patients with diabetes and heart disease.
  • Dentists emphasize the importance of regular dental care for your health.

New research is linking regular dental care to the lower cost of health care for people with diabetes and heart disease.

The research was conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic and published in the journal Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, examined the records of 11,734 adults with diabetes, coronary artery disease, or both. These participants also enrolled in a commercial health plan in Arkansas that provided preventative dental care coverage.

The researchers looked at patients who had been continuously enrolled in the health plan for four to five years (between 2014 and 2018) and compared the health costs of people who had had at least one preventive dental visit each year. do not receive any dental care.

Overall, the researchers found that the average cost savings for patients receiving at least one dental care per year (compared to those who did not) is $ 549 for people with diabetes, $ 548 for those with coronary artery, and $ 866 for patients. with two conditions.

Researchers point out that the cost savings were due to the fact that people did not have to seek serious medical care.

“Most of these savings came from hospitalization costs [hospital] admissions, which ranged from 25% to 36% of all disease classifications for all years, ”the researchers wrote.

The research has its limitations, namely that researchers have used insurance claims and cost records rather than comprehensive clinical records. But the connection is clear.

Bijan J. Borah, Ph.D., Ph.D., a professor of health services research at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science, told Verywell that he and his team decided to look into the issue because dental care is often underused due to cost.

“Because costs are often a barrier to access to dental care or other health care, the goal of the study was to assess how adherence to preventive dental visits by patients with diabetes or coronary artery disease patients was linked to overall health costs,” he said.

But, he said, dental care seems to be linked to better overall health and more cost savings.

“In addition to better oral health outcomes, regular preventive dental visits are associated with better overall health outcomes among patients with diabetes and coronary artery, resulting in significant savings in health care costs,” Borah said.

Why might dental health be linked to overall health costs?

The researchers did not examine why there was a link between good dental health and the overall cost of health, but experts say the findings are not surprising.

“The oral cavity is the gateway to your overall systemic health. So it’s no surprise that preventive dental care can reduce health care costs in other areas, especially in patients with diabetes and heart disease,” said Julie Chok, DMD, New York dentist generals, to Verywell.

Diabetes is a major risk factor for periodontal disease, he said.

“Diabetes medications have been shown to cause dry mouth,” Chok explained. “Reducing saliva flow (one’s own natural way of irrigating) and raising glucose levels create the perfect condition for bacteria to grow, lactic acid to form, and cavities to form.”

That’s why people with diabetes are more likely to get infections and wounds, Chok added.

Studies have linked bacteria found in periodontal disease to those found in heart disease, specifically streptococcal strains, Chok said.

“This can contaminate the heart cover, which can cause inflammation and ultimately damage the heart valves,” Chok said. “This bacterium can be caused by the mouth, and as a result, it enters the bloodstream and goes to the heart.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has linked good oral health to overall health, and stated on the network that “oral health is a key indicator of overall health, well-being and quality of life.”

But there may be a simple explanation for this link, Dr. Mark Wolff, DDS, Dr. Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, told Verywell.

“People who take good care of their teeth can also have a better chance of taking good care of their diabetes and heart,” he said. “What we don’t need to get out of this research is, ‘I have diabetes, I’m going to brush my teeth and my diabetes is going to go away or it’s going to get better magically.'”

What should people remove from these findings?

Borah said researchers cannot be confident that good oral health will reduce overall health care costs based on the design of the research.

“Because it was not a randomized controlled trial, our study design did not allow for an assessment of causality, which is whether preventive dental visits improve overall outcomes, resulting in lower costs,” he said. “However, the overall cost savings in health care is significant compared to those who did not suggest better health outcomes from regular preventive dental visits among patients with diabetes or coronary heart disease, especially with regard to reduced hospitalizations.”

Wolff emphasizes the importance of visiting a dentist regularly.

“It helps maintain overall health,” he says. “You can’t be healthy without oral health and oral health affects many things in our lives.”

What does this mean for you?

Good oral health and regular check-ups with your dentist can help improve your overall health. Talk to your dentist about how often you should visit for maximum oral health.

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