At a dental appointment, my diabetic patients need special consideration.

I find they are often well-informed of the importance of a healthy mouth. They might already know that people who have gum disease may have trouble regulating their blood sugars.

Conversely, having diabetes can make it harder to keep the mouth bacteria under control, and gum disease is often more severe among diabetics.

If a diabetic person keeps her mouth cleaner, how much will her body benefit? Further, how much could those benefits translate into dollars saved on health care costs?

Starting in 2007, University of Pennsylvania professor of periodontics Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat conducted a five-year, peer-reviewed study on health care costs for diabetic people. She used data from United Concordia Dental and Highmark Medical insurance companies.

The landmark “Jeffcoat Study” focused on two groups of diabetic people who had gum or periodontal disease. One group had their teeth professionally cleaned according to their dentist’s recommendations. The other group did not keep a routine dental cleaning schedule.

The Jeffcoat Study found that healthier gums are a big deal for a diabetic person’s overall health. The study put results in a format insurance companies understand well: dollars.

The group of diabetics receiving regular dental hygiene care averaged much lower medical costs than the people without regular dental care.

How much money are we talking? Here are the savings figures, according to “Impact of Periodontal Therapy on General Health,” published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2014:

  • To treat diabetes, $2,840 per year per person, with half of that amount in medication alone.
  • Treating stroke: $5,681 per year.
  • Treating heart disease: $1,090 annually per person.
  • Pregnancies: an average of $2,433 less for a diabetic who has her gum/periodontal disease treated.

Benefits from dental care didn’t stop there.

Jeffcoat discovered that diabetic people who had their gum/periodontal disease treated had fewer hospital admissions. They had 39.4 percent fewer admissions for diabetes; 21 percent fewer for stroke; and 28 fewer for heart disease.

These findings got the attention of insurance companies everywhere. Similar studies were done by insurance companies, with similar findings. This is wonderful news for diabetic people! A cleaner mouth can mean less time and money spent on medical care and hospital visits.

Some dental plans now provide additional benefits for diabetic clients. A diabetic may even have additional coverage under their medical benefits for dental cleanings. 

It may be worth your time to review the details of your benefit plan, especially if you are diabetic.

 

Kim Glover is a dental hygienist at Broadway Family Dental Care in Milton-Freewater, online at bwaydental.com.

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