Yes, visiting your dentist could help you fight some of the human body’s most notorious killers—and might just take a substantial bite (forgive me…) out of your health-care costs. A study just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (read & download article here–free) from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine—with coauthors from medical and dental insurance companies, which provided the data—found that people with some nasty chronic conditions who had their periodontal disease treated 1) racked up significantly lower medical bills AND 2) had significantly fewer hospitalizations over a 4-year period than those who didn’t. These authors looked at 4 diseases that are among the most formidable killers of humans: Type-2 diabetes, cerebral vascular disease (stroke), coronary artery disease, and rheumatoid arthritis…diagnosed in a population of 338,891 people with medical AND dental insurance who also had diagnosed periodontal disease, over a period spanning 2005-2009. To keep things more objective, one criterion for analysis was no periodontal treatment during the pre-study year, 2004. Then, they compared the 2 outcomes (1: total medical costs, and 2: total hospital admissions—irrespective of cause) between those people who did, and those who did NOT get their periodontal disease treated beginning in 2005, up through 2009. The results showed significantly lower annualized costs AND hospital admissions among the periodontally treated folks for 3 out of the 4 conditions—only rheumatoid arthritis showed a drop that wasn’t statistically significant (ie, the drop could’ve happened by chance). On a more positive note, they also looked at data from women in this group with periodontal disease who had a first or a second pregnancy during 2005-2009—but had NONE of the 4 chronic diseases—and computed differences in medical costs for atypical medical visits only (hospital admissions weren’t analyzed). The biggest overall cost reductions occurred among women who had a first pregnancy AND got their gum disease treated (a whopping 73.7% annual drop). The next-biggest cost savings occurred among gum-conscious people with diabetes (40.2% annual drop) and stroke (40.9% annual drop); these 2 conditions also saw big annual drops in hospital admissions (39.4% and 21.2%, respectively)…BUT…those with coronary artery disease also saw a whopping 28.6% yearly drop in hospital admissions…along with a less spectacular—but still statistically significant—10.7% yearly drop in their medical cost totals, if they had a periodontal treatment regimen during those 4 years. I highlight this last number because heart disease is probably THE systemic condition most people understand IS connected to oral health…or lack of it. And let’s face it—heart disease has a terror factor all its own—so this number should resonate…even with folks who DON’T have it, and provide an incentive to keep their teeth and gums healthy…and if they do have periodontal disease—get it treated by professionals who have more capabilities now to heal and regenerate gums and supporting bone than has ever been possible in dentistry. Chronic disease is a huge burden in the United States. The authors of this study—and the people whose data they analyzed—provide us with convincing evidence that addressing the oral-systemic connection can put huge dents in that burden—from perspectives of cost AND sheer health crisis. Please—download this article (read & download article here–free)—and print a copy for your DENTIST AND YOUR DOCTOR. If you have questions or comments about the article—or have a similar story to share—please tell me below…and please share this post with your friends and colleagues!