The Irish Dental Association has called on the Government to tackle the high incidence of gum disease in this country by reintroducing the scale and polish procedure which was previously available free of charge on the Medical Card and PRSI dental schemes.
The IDA says the findings of a major US study show that patients with chronic conditions and pregnant women who underwent periodontal (gum) treatment cut their medical bills by thousands of dollars. According to the most recent national oral health survey, 80% of Irish people have some form of gum disease.
The US study examined the experience of hundreds of thousands of patients with chronic conditions (stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes) who also had gum disease. Also included in the study were women who were pregnant during the same time period.
The study by Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, Professor of Periodontology and Dean Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania School of dentistry found impressive medical cost savings and significant reductions in hospitalisations for those patients who completed treatment for gum disease versus those who did not.
For those patients with cerebral vascular disease (stroke) who completed gum treatment and maintenance the annual medical costs saving was $5,681 while the reduction in the level of hospitalisation for this group was 21%. The reduction in costs for patients with diabetes was $2,840 with a corresponding fall in hospitalisations of 39%. For pregnant women the reduction in medical costs was $2,433.
The President of the Irish Dental Association Dr Peter Gannon said the study was highly significant as it was the first one to quantify the benefit of periodontal (gum) treatment.
“Signs of gum disease include tender swollen gums, red or bleeding gums, loosening of teeth or bad breath. Routine oral care helps prevent and tackle these problems early on before they develop into complex and more expensive ones. Given the high incidence of gum disease in Ireland it’s important that everyone brushes their teeth twice a day and visit their dentist on a regular basis” he said.
Dr Gannon warned that this was especially important for people in susceptible groups, for example people with diabetes who are much more prone to gum disease and tooth loss.
“This study shows the folly of doing away with the scale and polish procedure and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease. When this was available on the Medical Card and PRSI schemes dentists were able to treat patients with the condition in a very cost effective way. In fact both schemes provided an early warning system which saved lots of money for patients and our health system. The Government should reintroduce these treatments immediately. As the study above shows it will be money well spent” Dr Gannon concluded.
For further information
Contact Kieran Garry
01/6650455 or 087/2368366
Note to Editor
The American Study referenced in the release above is a white paper entitled The Mouth – The Missing Piece to Overall Wellness and Lower Medical Costs. The research was conducted by Dr Marjorie Jeffcoat, Professor of Periodontology and Dean Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania School Of Dentistry. The results of the study – which is based on medical claims from Highmark Health Inc and United Concordia dental plans - were presented by Dr Jeffcoat at the American Association of Dental Research last year.