Study to explore link between periodontal treatment, medical costs for diabetes

Sept. 3, 2008
Dental and medical claims for Chrysler employees will be analyzed.

OKEMOS, Michigan--Researchers from the Delta Dental Research and Data Institute and the University of Michigan School of Dentistry will study the impact that periodontal (gum) treatment may have on the medical costs of people with diabetes.

Analyzing seven years of dental and medical claims data from Chrysler employees and their dependents, researchers will determine if medical costs were lower for those with diabetes who also had treatment for periodontal disease (inflammation of the gums).

The health-care business of Thomson Reuters--a global information services company--is contributing to the data analytics and methodologies for the study.

Diabetes, a common and costly chronic disease, increased threefold between 1960 and 1990 and is projected to increase by 44 percent between 2002 and 2020. People with diabetes and poor blood sugar control are more susceptible to periodontal disease.

A growing body of evidence suggests that the reverse--periodontal disease can adversely affect blood sugar control in those with diabetes--is also true. Researchers believe that by keeping gum disease in check, people with diabetes can better manage their blood glucose levels and avoid many of the serious complications of diabetes.

"Recent studies have shown that having periodontal disease makes those with type 2 diabetes more likely to develop worsened glycemic control and puts them at much greater risk of kidney disease and death due to kidney or cardiovascular disease," said George W. Taylor, DMD, MPH, PhD, associate professor, University of Michigan School of Dentistry, and principal investigator of the study. 

"Given the numerous medical studies showing that good glycemic control results in reduced development and progression of diabetes complications, we believe there is the potential that periodontal treatment can provide an increment in improvement of diabetes control and subsequently a reduction in the risk for diabetes complications," he added.

"We hope to find a reduction in total medical care costs for individuals with diabetes and periodontal disease who receive treatment," said Jed J. Jacobson, DDS, MS, MPH, senior vice president and chief science officer at Delta Dental. "If this proves true, it can lead to changing the way we manage patients with diabetes, not only saving health care costs, but lessening the burden of diabetes and, ultimately, saving lives."

The study, titled "Periodontal Therapy: Dental Insurance Claims and Medical Care Costs in Diabetes," will analyze dental and medical claims data from 2000 to 2007 for approximately 3,300 Chrysler employees and their dependents with diabetes. Personal identifiable information will be completely stripped and deleted from the data by Delta Dental and Thomson Reuters prior to transfer to the researchers.

The specific aim of the study is to explore the association of periodontal treatment with total medical care costs, medical care costs specifically related to diabetes, and costs for medical care related to complications of diabetes, such as stroke, heart disease, foot ulcers, and infections.

"We continue to look for ways to help our employees improve their health status and quality of life while containing our health care costs," said Kate Kohn-Parrott, director, Integrated Healthcare and Disability, Chrysler LLC. "If the results of this study, and others like it, ultimately lead to new ways to manage chronic illness, we all benefit."

The study, expected to be completed in February 2009, is funded with a grant from the Delta Dental Research and Data Institute.

For more information, visit Delta Dental Research and Data Institute.

To read more about periodontal disease, go to periodontal disease.

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