Risks Associated with Oral Health Issues for Older Adults

It is interesting that although periodontal disease is considered to be treatable and preventable, it is one of the leading chronic diseases in America, Canada and the World. It shares numerous risk factors/risk indicators with other serious chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes (See Table 4). Prevention of any of these chronic diseases has always revolved around elimination of suspected risk factors/risk indicators. Although sufficient evidence does not yet exist to call periodontal disease a risk factor for these serious chronic conditions, reductions in overall systemic inflammation (CRP) have been demonstrated by reducing oral inflammation as previously shown in Table 3. These chronic diseases place an enormous burden on the overall health care system, particularly with the older adult population. Health care costs for one person aged 65 or older is three to five times higher than the cost for someone younger.11 If periodontal maintenance therapy were to be included for all seniors as part of a national prevention program, this could potentially have an enormous impact in reducing overall health care costs.

Table 4. Shared Risk Factor/Indicator/Commonalities with Periodontal Disease, Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes.
Risk Factor Periodontal Disease Cardiovascular Disease Diabetes
Smoking X X
Obesity (Metabolic Syndrome) X X X
Stress X X
Cholesterol X
Hypertension X X
Lack of Exercise X
Age X X
Inflammation X X X

As one can see from this Table, the feature in common for all of these conditions is inflammation, highlighting the nature of these diseases and the importance of elimination of all sources of inflammation including the mouth.