Research from Cigna Supports Potential Association between Untreated Gum Disease and Higher Medical Costs
Study results presented at recent International Association for Dental Research Meeting
SUNRISE, Fla., April 16, 2009 - The preliminary results from a new Cigna study support that there is a potential association between untreated periodontal (gum) disease and increased medical costs for patients being treated for stroke or diabetes.
The preliminary findings of the ongoing three-year claims study were presented by Dr. Clay Hedlund, a Cigna dental director, and Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, Dean Emeritus and professor, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and also a Cigna Dental Clinical Advisory Panel* member, during a recent meeting of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) in Miami. IADR is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing research and increasing knowledge to improve oral health worldwide.
"While more study is needed, the results of our research to date are compelling and support a possible association between the treatment of gum disease and lower medical costs in the treatment of stroke and diabetes," said Dr. Clay Hedlund. "We observed that patients who were in maintenance care for gum disease, meaning they received treatment for the disease previously and were now receiving maintenance care, had lower medical costs than those people undergoing initial treatment for gum disease. On average, medical costs were $10,142 per year less for stroke patients and $1,418 per year lower for diabetes patients."
Dr. Hedlund also noted, "These results suggest that treating unhealthy gums is not only important for oral health, it may also make a difference in controlling medical costs as well. We are pleased to contribute to the ongoing efforts of the dental research community to study and advance the understanding of the connection between good oral health and good overall health."
"Though the link between periodontal disease and other health problems has not yet been firmly established, the association is a concern," said Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat. "Advancing our knowledge on this subject can help lead to evidence-based treatment that helps to avoid or alleviate other health conditions, and ultimately lower overall medical and dental costs. These are recommendations that would benefit millions of Americans, and I'm pleased to play a role in research that will help provide more answers."
About the Research
The length of the study period was three full years, 2005 to 2007. It included an examination of medical and dental claims of over 30,000 individuals aged 18-62 who were enrolled in both Cigna medical and Cigna dental plans. The medical cost analysis included 1,136 patients from this group who received treatment for diabetes or cerebrovascular accident (stroke) and received concurrent treatment or maintenance care for gum disease during the three year study period.
Two different groups of patients with gum disease were then compared. Individuals in the first group received initial treatment for gum disease during the first (baseline) year of the study. Individuals in the second group received treatment for periodontal disease prior to the baseline year, and received periodontal maintenance care throughout the three years of the study.
Lower medical costs were observed in the group who had received prior treatment and then maintenance care. Conversely, medical costs were higher in the group of patients who first received treatment during the baseline year. These medical cost differences averaged $10,142 per patient in the baseline year among stroke patients and $1,418 per patient in the baseline year among patients with diabetes. These preliminary results are part of a larger and ongoing research project, expected to be completed later this year, which will permit a more precise estimate of cost savings.
Cigna is an industry leader in providing integrated medical and dental plans to address the emerging association between periodontal disease and chronic medical conditions and between periodontal disease and pregnancy. In 2006, Cigna launched its Oral Health Integration Program, the first program of its kind to be offered by a health service company. Through this program, Cigna dental plan customers who are also enrolled in a Cigna disease management program for diabetes or cardiac care, or those who are pregnant, are eligible to receive 100% reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs associated with periodontal scaling and root planing and periodontal maintenance. In addition, expectant mothers may receive extra dental cleanings as needed during pregnancy. These integrated programs are designed to help eliminate cost as a barrier to seeking appropriate treatment for gum disease and ultimately improve health.
*About the Cigna Dental Clinical Advisory Panel - The Cigna Dental Clinical Advisory panel helps to create innovative approaches to new technologies, medical/dental integration and evidence-based strategies. Organized by Cigna, this independent panel consists of leaders in the dental profession, many of whom are published and have served in leadership roles within their specialty or the American Dental Association. Several panel members have current academic appointments in major schools of dentistry, including the University of PA, Tufts, SUNY, and UCLA.
Cigna (NYSE:CI), a global health services company, is dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and security. Cigna Corporation's operating subsidiaries provide an integrated suite of medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision care benefits, as well as group life, accident and disability insurance, to approximately 47 million people throughout the United States and around the world. People covered by a Cigna dental plan can choose their dentists from one of the largest dental HMO and dental PPO networks in the U.S. To learn more about Cigna, visit www.cigna.com. To sign up for email alerts or an RSS feed of company news log on to http://www.cigna.com/section_display.cfm?section_id=18
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