Gum Disease Treatment Can Reduce Medical Cost for Diabetics By $2,500/yr

The results of a study were recently published in Medscape showing individuals with diabetes who received proper gum disease treatment could reduce their medical bills by an average of $2,500 a year [1]. Although the data came from a sample of insured people suffering from both diabetes and periodontal disease and was not a randomized controlled trial, it does emphasize the association between systemic and oral health.

The study looked at data for diabetics with medical insurance, and divided them into two separate groups. The first group received treatment for their periodontal disease and then went on to receive routine dental maintenance treatments, while the second group initially received treatment for their periodontal disease but did not go on to complete the treatment or receive dental maintenance treatments.

It was found that the group of patients who were treated for gum disease on a routine basis had lower medical bills two years later compared to the group who did not receive routine treatments. The findings seem to indicate that periodontal treatment can have a lasting effect on patients with diabetes. Interestingly, the results showed men who continued with their periodontal treatment saved an average of $3,212.36 in medical costs while women who continued with their treatment saved an average of $735.27.

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Mice Help Explain the Mystery of Bacterium’s Role in Periodontitis

Up until recently it has been a bit of a mystery as to how common oral bacteria such as P. gingivalis, A. actinomycetemcomitans, and T. fosythia, were able to wreak such havoc in the mouth. Scientists have pondered for years how exactly they were able to trigger periodontitis, despite being present in relatively low numbers in the sub gingival crevice. Now researchers have discovered that the common oral bacteria P. gingivalis is able to reprogram the immune cells that normally protect the sub gingival crevice, into creating conditions it finds more favourable.

The reprogrammed immune cells effectively persuade more immune cells to follow their lead, prompting the usually benign bacterial residents of the sub gingival crevice to rise up and defend their realm, which in turn leads to inflammation of the supportive structures of the tooth. Prior to this research it had often been thought that P. gingivalis was directly responsible for the infection, but it now seems likely that it just sits back to watch the destruction unfold, waiting to feed off the nutrients generated by the inflammation.

George Hajishengallis, D.D.S., Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry was a co-lead author on the study which was supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and has commented that this research is important as it is the first documented case of a keystone species being discovered in microbiology. The term keystone species was first invented in the late 1960s and is a species which is present in low numbers but which is able to exert a disproportionate influence on its environment. P. gingivalis, a common oral bacteria, would seem to be a perfect example as it is able to change the microbial environment creating conditions favourable for periodontitis to develop.

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