New Study: Improving Oral Care for People with Chronic Conditions Can Reduce
Costs for Employers and Improve Health for Employees
*Better dental care for people with chronic medical conditions can reduce
medical costs by more than $1,000 per person per year, even after the
added expense of providing the dental care
*Companies that integrate medical benefits with dental benefits can provide
their employees with wellness support programs that improve health and
reduce medical costs
MINNETONKA, Minn. -- September 24, 2013
Improving the oral health of people with chronic medical conditions, such as
diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease, can reduce health care costs,
according to a new study by UnitedHealthcare.
The research showed that people with certain chronic conditions who received
appropriate dental care, including preventive services and the treatment of
gum disease, had net medical and dental claims that were on average $1,038
lower per year than claims for chronically ill people who did not receive that
type of oral care. Among diabetics, the average annual net medical and dentals
claims were $1,279 lower per person for individuals who received treatment for
gum disease compared to people who did not. The savings for all of those
groups were achieved even after accounting for the additional cost of the
The study’s results underscore the important connection between oral health
and overall health. Researchers have shown a potential link between gum
disease and an array of serious health conditions, including cardiovascular
disease and diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, people with chronic conditions account for more than 75 percent of
health care costs, so employers and health plans are increasingly developing
strategies to improve the health of these individuals.
“This study demonstrates that employers can benefit from looking at their
population holistically, and analyzing their medical and dental benefits
collectively,” said Michael Weitzner, DMD, MS, vice president,
UnitedHealthcare Dental. “By taking this approach, companies can take steps to
engage employees around their dental health and improve health outcomes,
potentially reducing health care costs and driving productivity with a
Many employers are starting to embrace this integrated approach. Employers
enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s Bridge2Health program provide their workers
dental and medical benefits, combined with additional wellness support and
resources, to provide patients and health care professionals with information
that improves decisions and outcomes.
A total of 165 companies representing more than 850,000 plan participants have
already selected this approach for dental and medical benefits.
Among the study’s other findings:
*Total average medical costs were lower across all chronic conditions for
people who received periodontal treatment or cleanings compared to those
who did not receive such services, even after accounting for the costs of
additional dental treatments.
*People with chronic conditions who received regular cleanings (at least
three times during the three years) had the lowest health care costs of
any other dental treatment group (i.e. infrequent cleanings, no
*The savings were also significant for people who received regular dental
care, but were not compliant with the recommended care for their chronic
medical condition. Among the group receiving dental care, annual average
medical costs were $2,320 lower than those not receiving dental care, with
net savings of $1,829 after accounting for the cost of the dental care.
The study’s results were based on three years (2008 to 2011) of dental claims
data associated with more than 130,000 plan participants enrolled in both
UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored dental and medical plans. The results were
split by medical condition, as well as by whether or not people were compliant
with managing their chronic condition, thereby minimizing compliance bias from
The study was a joint effort between UnitedHealthcare, a leading health
benefits company, and Optum, a leading information and technology-enabled
health services business.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier
lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and
wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The
company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals,
employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with
780,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,900 hospitals and other care
facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 40 million people in
health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH),
a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.
Optum (www.optum.com) is a leading information and technology-enabled health
services business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for
everyone. Optum comprises three companies – OptumHealth, OptumInsight and
OptumRx – representing over 35,000 employees worldwide who collaborate to
deliver integrated, intelligent solutions that work to modernize the health
system and improve overall population health. Optum is part of the
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH).
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Will Shanley, 714-204-8005
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