Newly diagnosed diabetics treated for gum disease have lower health costs; shows need to integrate oral health and primary care

Newly diagnosed diabetics who are monitored and treated for gum disease have lower health-care costs, according to a study by the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute.

The study, published Jan. 22 online in the journal Health Economics, examined whether patients newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes had lower healthcare costs if they received care for their gums and all of the structures that support teeth, such as bones and ligaments.

The authors found the patients who received such care paid $1,799 less in total health-care costs over two years, calling it a “”statistically significant association,” Jennifer Garvin reports for ADA News. The researchers said they controlled for other factors. They note that they couldn’t identify the periodontal disease status of the patients because the coding system didn’t include it.

Dental experts said the study shows the need to integrate oral health care and primary health care.

“Hopefully this will reach a tipping point soon, and the integration of oral health and primary care will undergo serious transformation,” Raynor Mullins, emeritus dental faculty, University of Kentucky Center for Oral Health Research, told Kentucky Health News.

“The health care landscape is shifting dramatically in the U.S. and the dental care sector is part of this,” Marko Vujicic, chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute, said in the news release. “With health care moving toward integrated models with much more provider collaboration, we knew it was important to shed light on the benefits of oral health beyond the mouth.”

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