Why? There is clear evidence that periodontal disease – a common, chronic dental disease that causes inflammation and eventually leads to tooth loss – is linked to other chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, pneumonia and diabetes. Because of this relationship, it is critical that primary care medical providers who provide a health home and coordinate every aspect of a patient’s health care, address oral health. By identifying early signs of dental disease, delivering oral health prevention services, and making dental referrals, health homes can help improve health outcomes and reduce the cost of care.
Oral Health Care Can Help Reduce Healthcare Costs
At special risk, are people with diabetes, which affects 2 million adults in Washington. Periodontal disease can adversely impact their ability to control blood sugar and can lead to costly complications. There is mounting evidence from multiple large scale studies showing significant costs savings for diabetics that receive dental treatment. A University of Michigan study found lower medical costs, between 10 to 40 percent for individuals with diabetes and other chronic conditions that received regular dental care. New landmark research, from the University of Pennsylvania found lower annual medical costs of $1,800 per patient for diabetics who received regular dental treatment.
Another area of potential cost savings is catching disease earlier and preventing trips to emergency rooms. According to the Washington State Hospital Association, in a recent 18-month period (Jan. 2008-June 2009), the cost of more than 54,000 dental-related visits to ERs exceeded $36 million. Early treatment and prevention of oral disease saves money and improves overall health. Addressing oral health in the health home is the key to early intervention.