In the past, a patient's dental health didn't get a lot of attention from doctors, who assumed that only dentists needed to consider the effects of gum disease. But as it turns out, gum disease is far more dangerous than it appears. Research conducted over the past five years is suggesting that long-term gum disease can speed the progression of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, pregnancy complications and several other conditions. What's more, such infections can increase surgical risks; for example, cytomegalovirus is connected to gum disease--and also to the 20 percent of kidney transplants which fail.
On the plus side, researchers have found that treating severe gum disease can actually improve how blood vessel walls work, boosting heart health. Prompted by this research, a growing number of health plans, including Aetna, Cigna and Delta Dental, are beginning to offer beefed up dental coverage to at-risk patients. In some cases, patients must be referred by a physician to get extra dental services.
To learn more about increased interest in dental health:
- read this piece from the Los Angeles Times