Aetna (NYSE:AET) and Columbia University College of Dental Medicine conducted a study that found a relationship between periodontal (gum) treatment and the overall cost of care for several chronic diseases. The results of the study, which included approximately 145,000 Aetna members with continuous dental and medical coverage, indicate that periodontal care appears to have a positive effect on the cost of medical care, with earlier treatment resulting in lower medical costs for members with diabetes, coronary artery disease (CAD), and cerebrovascular disease (CVD) or stroke.

“The results of this study are encouraging because they show the connection between good oral health and overall well-being, as well as illustrating that the early treatment of periodontal disease can help reduce medical costs for these conditions,” said Pat Farrell, head of Aetna Specialty Products. “We believe that in addition to lowering medical costs, we are also helping to improve members’ quality of life. We will continue to work with Columbia to demonstrate ways that dental care can improve the overall health of our members.”

“Systemic health is often associated with the condition of the oral cavity in that many systemic diseases manifest in the mouth; however, less is known about the connection between a diseased periodontium and the impact it may have on systemic health,” said David A. Albert, D.D.S., M.P.H., Associate Professor of Dentistry at Columbia University. “The association between periodontal infection and systemic health has important implications for the treatment and management of patients.”

The retrospective study of claims data included an examination of approximately 145,000 members participating in Aetna PPO plans with continuous dental and medical coverage over two years. Periodontal care appeared to have a positive effect on the cost of medical care in this two-year study (2001, 2002), with earlier treatment resulting in lower medical costs for diabetes, CVD and CAD. In addition, the actual cost of medical care for patients with diabetes and CAD was found to be lower if they received periodontal care in the first year of the study.

About Columbia University College of Dental Medicine

Since its inception in 1852 and its incorporation into Columbia University in 1917, the College of Dental Medicine has vigorously pursued its commitment to education, patient care and research. Recognizing the value to the public and the dental specialties, the college established the first formal specialty education program in orthodontics in the 1920s. Columbia went on to establish programs in periodontics, endodontics, oral/maxillofacial surgery, prosthodontics, pediatric dentistry and advanced programs. The college provides general dentistry, oral surgery, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, and other clinic services to many members of the community through its Faculty Practice, Postgraduate and Specialty Practice, and Undergraduate Clinic. Columbia encourages and supports all forms of academic research efforts that have direct impact on improving oral health by fostering faculty and student participation in research and training students in current research methodologies.

www.aetna.com.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 28, 2007) — A new study found that prevention of periodontal diseases may lead to savings on not only dental costs, but also medical care costs. Periodontal, or gum diseases have been linked to systemic health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory problems.

The study, conducted in Japan, examined the effect of periodontal diseases on medical and dental costs in 4,285 patients over a 3.5 year time span. The patients were between the ages of 40-59. Researchers found that cumulative health care costs were 21% higher for those patients with severe periodontal disease than those with no periodontal disease. Severe periodontal disease, or periodontitis, involves bone loss and diminished attachment around the teeth.

“While previous studies have evaluated the potential link between periodontal diseases and other systemic conditions, this study provides an interesting analysis of total
health care costs and the financial impact of having periodontal diseases,” explained JOP editor Kenneth Kornman, DDS. “The research suggests that patients with severe periodontal diseases incur higher overall health care expenses as compared to those patients with no periodontal disease. Prevention of periodontal disease may be very important in overall health, and this study suggests that it may also indirectly translate into lower total health care costs.”

“Everyone is looking for ways to reduce health care costs,” said Susan Karabin, DDS, President of the American Academy of Periodontology. “Especially those who are in an age category where they are more susceptible to periodontal diseases. Because of the relationship between the mouth and the rest of the body, treating periodontal
disease may be one simple way to decrease total health care costs. If caught early, periodontal diseases can be treated using simple non-surgical techniques which can
restore your mouth to a healthy state.”

Journal of Periodontology article: “The effect of periodontal disease on medical and dental costs in a middle-aged Japanese population: A longitudinal worksite study,”
November 2007.

 
 

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