For all the years I’ve worked at EBN, I’ve heard dental experts say that part of the importance of dental insurance and regular dental care is that oral health is directly linked to overall physical health — that preventive oral care can reduce risk from everything to heart disease to low birthweight babies.
So, imagine my shock and awe to see a statement from the American Heart Association (not an organization known for fluff research) that says based on review of more than 500 journal articles and studies, an AHA committee has concluded there’s no proof that gum disease leads to heart disease or stroke — or that preventive dental care can reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Further, the committee revealed, some dental procedures — including ones to treat gum disease — could even increase the risk.
Wait … what?
"The message sent out by some in health care professions — that heart attack and stroke are directly linked to gum disease — can distort the facts, alarm patients and perhaps shift the focus of prevention away from well-known risk factors for these diseases," AHA committee member Dr. Peter Lockhart, professor of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., told MyHealthNewsDaily.
Now, before your mind is totally blown and you go reorganize all of your dental benefits communications, the committee did acknowledge that it’s plausible that oral bacteria can cause heart disease. However, the experts point out that gum disease and heart disease share so many common risk factors — smoking and diabetes among them — and it’s those factors that most likely are to blame, MHND reports.
So, does this news from AHA lower your perception of the value of dental benefits? Will you change your benefits communications on dental coverage or your coverage offerings as a result? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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