When it comes to maintaining a healthy body, a good place to start is a healthy mouth. That’s the finding of a study just released by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, confirming that a link exists between a person’s oral health and their overall healthcare status. As a result of that study Blue-Cross BlueShield is starting a unique new oral health program that is an example of the growing awareness that good oral health is important for good overall health. The study found that BlueCross members who had gone to their dentist for diagnostic and preventive care had lower healthcare costs and fewer incidences of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and hypertension compared to those members who did not go to their dentist for care. The report, titled Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body, found that there was a 2% healthcare cost difference between members utilizing preventive dental services versus members not using dental services of any kind, and that this difference could result in nearly $5.5 million in medical claims savings annually in the state of Tennessee. In addition, the study found that inpatient admissions were nearly 16% higher for those members who received no dental services. Based on these findings, BlueCross has initiated an oral health program focusing on education, awareness, case management, and a coupon program for members with both medical and dental coverage. The BlueCross oral health program is unique because it utilizes data from both medical and fully insured dental claims of customers. The coupon offers a free cleaning and examination for members who have medical issues that the research highlighted as at-risk, which include diabetes, cancer of the head and neck, and women experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, among others. Other findings in the study state that imaging costs were approximately 12% higher for those members with periodontal issues. Pharmaceutical usage, including hepatitis C agents, inflammatory bowel agents, and anti-retroviral combinations, was higher among those with periodontal issues, as well.
(BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee news release, October 15, 2007)