Companies partner to launch campaign to promote better overall health

Nov. 19, 2007
Campaign aims to improve preventive oral care through education, incentives.

HARTFORD, Connecticut--Aetna and Colgate-Palmolive have announced that they have joined forces to help Aetna members achieve better oral health as part of overall health.

The campaign is designed to educate members about the emerging evidence of an association between oral health and systemic health, to promote preventive dental care, and to provide education about using Colgate Total--the only toothpaste both approved by the FDA and accepted by the American Dental Association to reduce and help prevent the gum disease gingivitis.

"Teaming up with a leading global consumer products company like Colgate that is firmly focused on oral care and its benefits sends a powerful message to our members about the need to maintain good oral health," said Alan Hirschberg, vice president and head of Aetna Dental. "Equally as important is the research showing that serious gum disease and inflammation may be associated with certain medical conditions. Our combined goal is to help members take steps towards achieving better oral health as part of better overall health."

Starting in mid-September, Aetna made available to its members Colgate Total coupons and products, along with education materials on the association between oral health and overall health in its Aetna Navigator newsletter and in member brochures.

Colgate toothbrushes and trial size toothpastes were also available in October for employer annual enrollment fairs. Aetna and Colgate also plan to offer continuing education seminars to physicians and dentists, on the association between dental conditions and medical conditions such as diabetes.

Both Aetna and Colgate have responded to a growing body of research showing an association between serious gum disease and certain chronic conditions, such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Though research to improve the understanding and exact nature of this relationship is ongoing, much evidence suggests that the benefits of having a healthy mouth may be significant.

Serious gum disease often begins in the mouth as gingivitis, an early form of gum disease which is the inflammation of the gums caused by the accumulation of plaque and bacteria above the gumline. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more serious and damaging stage of infection and resulting gum inflammation.

It is therefore important to address gingivitis early through preventive dental care and the use of a toothpaste with an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action, such as Colgate Total.

Aetna recently launched the Aetna Dental/Medical Integration program, consisting of educational outreach and enhanced benefits for pregnant women and its members who have certain chronic health conditions. The program is designed to encourage at-risk members to seek dental care, improve their oral health and, potentially, reduce overall medical costs.

Aetna developed this program after evaluating the results of a published research analysis conducted with Columbia University College of Dental Medicine on the value of integrating dental and health benefits.

"In the past five years, Colgate has strongly supported publications and education for both dental and healthcare professionals about the clinical science behind the subject of oral systemic health," said Fotinos Panagakos, DMD, PhD, director of Professional Relations at Colgate-Palmolive. "This partnership with Aetna allows us to unite our resources to reach medical and dental professionals and consumers to provide incentives and information designed to help improve preventive oral care, for the sake of oral health as part of overall health."

Statistics show there is a significant need for Americans to improve their oral health.

Without proper oral hygiene at home and regular dental visits, anyone is at risk for gum disease and inflammation. It is estimated that 80 percent of adults have experienced some form of gum disease and 164 million work hours are lost each year because of a dental-related illness. Despite these statistics, less than two-thirds of adults report visiting a dentist in the past 12 months.

More information on the emerging association between oral health and overall health is available on Colgate's Web site as well as Aetna's Simple Steps to Better Dental Health Web site. This site features content from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, including a link to Oral Health & Your Body.