The agents and brokers who sell dental insurance struggle to explain how important good dental care is to improve the quality and hold down the cost of acute medical care.
Virginia officials are trying to spread a similar message about the importance of oral health care to the quality of long-term care (LTC).
The Virginia Department of Social Services is sponsoring a continuing education webinar on the relationship between dementia and oral health aimed at providers of LTC services. Patricia Brown Bonwell, an assistant professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University dental school, has developed a written version of her presentation that covers the overall effects of aging on oral health and strategies for providing everyday oral health care for people with dementia.
Bonwell also summarizes recent research on possible connections between oral health problems and dementia.
She notes that bacteria cause gingivitis — inflammation of the gum tissue — and periodontitis. Periodontitis refers to a gum infection that has caused bone loss.
People who have been exposed to chronic periodontal disease or other inflammation early in life are four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than otherwise comparable people, Bonwell reports.