Routine Dental Care Lowers Annual Medical Costs

With the Affordable Care Act being implemented nationwide, both employers and individuals are questioning how much their health insurance costs are going to change.  For many, President Obama’s health care reform law will allow them to purchase health insurance for the first time, including those that have preexisting conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, and cardiovascular disease.  The question of exactly how much coverage will cost is without an answer at this point, but according to a new study, a reduction of costs is imminent for chronic condition sufferers provided they keep up with their oral health.  The details of the study were recently discussed in a Dentistry IQ news article.

For quite some time now, research has established a crucial connection between oral health and overall wellness, and this latest study, conducted by both UnitedHealthcare, a leading health benefits company, and Optum, an information and technology-enabled health services business, only strengthens the point.  Data was gathered using three years worth (2008-2011) of dental claims involving more than 130,000 individuals enrolled in both UnitedHealthcare dental and medical plans.  Those with certain chronic conditions who received proper dental care were found to have an average of $1,038 lower annual medical and dental costs than those who did not receive oral care and are suffering from the same chronic conditions.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals suffering from chronic conditions make up nearly 75% of health care costs; so naturally, employers are always seeking means to improve the health of these employees.  Michael Weitzner, DMD, MS, vice president of United Healthcare Dental, claims that by engaging employees in their dental health, overall health outcomes will improve, leading to a reduction in health care costs while increasing productivity among a healthier workforce.

Through their findings, UnitedHealthcare is hoping to start a trend among employers that embraces an integrated approach to health, uniting both dental and medical benefits.  As it stands, Obamacare requires all Americans to carry medical insurance, but leaves out the critical dental component.  Hopefully, with enough research supporting the crucial connection between oral health and overall wellness, employers and individuals alike will stop viewing dental coverage as an unnecessary luxury and start treating it as the essential piece that has been missing in the healthcare puzzle.

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