Study links good oral care to lower diabetes care costs

University of Michigan researchers studied claims of an unprecedented 21,000 adults with diabetes who had Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan medical, pharmacy and Blue Dental coverage

August 27, 2009

DETROIT - Time in a dentist's chair may save medical dollars; 10 to 40 percent for individuals with diabetes and other chronic health conditions. A University of Michigan study, commissioned by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, suggests a link between good oral health and lower medical costs for people with diabetes.

The recently completed U-M study is the largest known of its kind to examine the link between dental care and diabetes. Lead researcher George Taylor, DMD, DrPH, U-M associate professor of dentistry, and his team analyzed de-identified dental and medical care claims of more than 21,000 BCBSM members ages 18 to 64 who have diabetes. Each also had Blues medical, Blues pharmacy and Blue Dental coverage, at the same time, for at least one year between 2001 and 2005.

Researchers found that regular, non-surgical periodontal — or gum — care is linked to lower diabetes-related medical care costs, possibly more than 10 percent per year. The same care was associated with up to 20 percent lower annual medical costs for treatment related to cardiovascular disease in individuals with both diabetes and heart disease. For individuals receiving periodontal treatment, medical costs were more than 30 percent lower for kidney disease treatment for individuals with diabetes and kidney disease. Periodontal treatment for patients with diabetes and congestive heart failure was associated with 40 percent lower medical care costs for treatment related to congestive heart failure.

"Our results are consistent with an emerging body of evidence that periodontal diseases adversely impact diabetes," said Taylor. "Treating periodontal infection may improve control of high levels of sugar in the blood. Other evidence also suggests that individuals with periodontal infections may be more likely to develop diabetes, and those with diabetes have a greater likelihood of having diabetes complications. At the minimum, physicians and dentists should be aware of these potentially important linkages and incorporate this knowledge into their practice decisions and patient communication."

"This research project is important because it addresses quality of care and health care costs for all Michigan residents," said Ira Strumwasser, executive director and CEO of the BCBSM Foundation. "This is a good example of how the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and local researchers are working in partnership to make cutting-edge contributions to the body of health care knowledge in our state and nationally."

Many industry sources agree that more frequent dental cleanings can help maintain good oral health plus may contribute in managing the oral health effects of diabetes. In the U.S., approximately 24 million people, or 8 percent of the population, have diabetes. Its prevalence increased 13.5 percent from 2005 to 2007, according to the American Diabetes Association. The chronic disease can lead to vision loss, kidney and nerve damage, and death. Gum disease can accelerate the condition's severity.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation is dedicated to improving the health of Michigan residents by supporting health care research and innovative health programs. The foundation's grant programs are conducted in Michigan by Michigan-based researchers and nonprofit community health care organizations.

Over the past 25 years, the BCBSM Foundation has contributed approximately $25 million in grants for research and $5 million for community health programs. This funding has resulted in enhancements to quality, patient safety and access to care for the people of Michigan. The foundation also supports efforts to control the rising costs of health care through research, demonstration and evaluation projects.

The BCBSM Foundation is the philanthropic affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit bcbsm.com/foundation.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to 4.7 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. The company offers a broad variety of plans including: Traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield; Blue Preferred®, Community Blue℠ and Healthy Blue Incentives℠ PPOs; Blue Care Network HMO; BCN's Healthy Blue Living℠; Flexible Blue℠ plans compatible with health savings accounts; Medicare Advantage; Part D Prescription Drug plans, and MyBlue℠products in the under-age-65 individual market. BCBSM also offers dental, vision and hearing plans. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit bcbsm.com.

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation's leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care, and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the School to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia, and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit at: dent.umich.edu.

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