The results of a study were recently published in Medscape showing individuals with diabetes who received proper gum disease treatment could reduce their medical bills by an average of $2,500 a year . Although the data came from a sample of insured people suffering from both diabetes and periodontal disease and was not a randomized controlled trial, it does emphasize the association between systemic and oral health.
The study looked at data for diabetics with medical insurance, and divided them into two separate groups. The first group received treatment for their periodontal disease and then went on to receive routine dental maintenance treatments, while the second group initially received treatment for their periodontal disease but did not go on to complete the treatment or receive dental maintenance treatments.
It was found that the group of patients who were treated for gum disease on a routine basis had lower medical bills two years later compared to the group who did not receive routine treatments. The findings seem to indicate that periodontal treatment can have a lasting effect on patients with diabetes. Interestingly, the results showed men who continued with their periodontal treatment saved an average of $3,212.36 in medical costs while women who continued with their treatment saved an average of $735.27.
These latest findings aren’t exactly a surprise as there is a growing body of evidence suggesting periodontal disease to be another complication of diabetes. Studies have shown periodontal disease to be more severe in people suffering from type II diabetes, and especially those who control their diabetes poorly. It is also appearing more and more likely that periodontal disease can increase the risk of poor glycemic control. Diabetics suffering from periodontal disease are also more likely to suffer from other diabetic complications, including the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes is estimated to affect nearly 25 million people in the United States, and medical expenses related to this condition were estimated at $116 billion in 2007, with another $58 billion being spent on associated expenses such as disability, inability to work and premature death. At the moment these costs account for around 20% of annual health care expenditure in the United States, and is predicted to rise in the future. The American Diabetes Association estimates the annual cost of care for a diabetic patient to be $11,744 compared to just $3,145-$5,872 spent on non-diabetic patients. The study suggests this cost can be reduced by as much as $2,500/year.
Nearly three quarters of diabetics have some form of gum disease, with around one third suffering from severe periodontitis. Diabetics are 2.9 times more likely to suffer from severe periodontitis compared to non-diabetics over the age of 45. Dental and healthcare professionals are increasingly recognizing the need for diabetics to receive additional dental treatments to improve their patient’s overall health.
Source: Jeffcoat M, Tanna NK, Hedlund C et al. Does Treatment of Oral Disease Reduce The Costs of Medical Care? Medscape Dentistry and Oral Health. Accessed Oct 19th, 2011.