Cigna study

March 29, 2011
Research supports potential association between treated gum disease and reduced medical costs for people with diabetes.

SUNRISE, Florida--The results from a new CIGNA study support that there is a potential association between treated periodontal (gum) disease and reduced medical costs for patients with diabetes.

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The findings of the three-year claims study were presented during a meeting of the International Association for Dental Research in San Diego, Calif.

The study was presented by Dr. Clay Hedlund, a CIGNA dental director; Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, Dean Emeritus and professor, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine; Dr. Robert Genco, a SUNY Distinguished Professor, University at Buffalo Schools of Dental Medicine; and Dr Nipul Tanna, clinical assistant professor, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

Drs. Jeffcoat and Genco are members of the CIGNA Dental Clinical Advisory Panel. IADR is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing research and increasing knowledge to improve oral health worldwide.

CIGNA's Dr. Hedlund said the study corroborates the results of CIGNA's prior research, presented at the IADR meeting in 2009, in support of a possible association between the treatment of gum disease and lower medical costs in the treatment of diabetes.

n the current study, patients who were treated for gum disease in the first year of the study and then received regular maintenance care thereafter had lower medical costs than those patients who had previously been treated for gum disease but did not receive regular maintenance care. On average, medical costs were $2,483 per year lower, or 23% percent less, for patients with diabetes who had proper gum disease treatment.

“With the increase in the prevalence of diabetes, and great concern for our ever-increasing medical costs, this study suggests that periodontal therapy may help reduce the disease burden, as well as medical costs of treatment for patients with diabetes,” said Dr. Robert Genco.

“The link between periodontal disease and diabetes has been firmly established and the association is a concern," said Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat.

“Periodontal disease can place individuals with diabetes at greater risk for diabetic complications,including mortality from cardiovascular disease and diabetic nephropathy. Advancing our understanding on how treatment for gum disease can affect thehealth of people with diabetes will help lead to the creation of evidence-based treatment standards that could benefit millions of people and help reduce medical costs at the same time.”

Dr. Clay Hedlund noted, “These results suggest that treating gum disease has benefits beyond better oral health and may also help to control medical costs for some patients as well. We are pleased to be part of the dental community’s ongoing research into the links between good oral health and good overall health.”

About the research
The length of the study period was three full years, 2006 to 2008. It included an examination of medical and dental claims of over 46,094 individuals ages 18-62 who were enrolled in CIGNA medical and CIGNA dental plans. The medical cost analysis included 3,449 patients from this group who received treatment for diabetes. These patients were presumed to also have had gum disease since they had received periodontal (gum) therapy at some point.

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 and received regular maintenance care thereafter (1,355 patients). Individuals in the second group received treatment for periodontal disease prior to the baseline year, and did not receive regular maintenance care during the study period (2,094 patients).

Lower medical costs among patients being treated for diabetes were observed in the group who received periodontal treatment in the first year and then regular maintenance care thereafter. Conversely, medical costs were higher in the group of patients who received treatment prior to the baseline year and did not receive regular maintenance care thereafter. These medical cost differences averaged $2,483 per patient in 2008. These results are part of ongoing studies at CIGNA.

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