Regular visits to the dentist for routine treatments like check-ups, x-rays, and teeth cleanings can have far-reaching benefits not just for people’s oral health, but for their overall health and finances, according to a new Cigna study. The findings, which are based on the analysis of dental claims from 2012 through 2019, demonstrate the importance of routine preventive care, especially for individuals with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes.
Routine Care Reduces Likelihood of Emergency Care by More than 20%
The study found that Cigna clients whose members routinely visited their dentists for three consecutive years saved an average of 4.4% on total medical costs per member per year for five years. The study also showed that these same clients experienced reduced emergency room and urgent care visits by 22%, contributing to more medical costs savings.
“Cigna customers who regularly visit the dentist for cleanings and check-ups are taking important measures to prevent periodontal disease, among other dental complications,” said Dr. Cary Sun, Cigna’s Chief Dental Officer. “Those who don’t are more likely to develop gum disease, in addition to having increased expenses associated with treating those preventable health issues.”
Indeed, Cigna customers who did not have consecutive years of routine preventive care were 1.5 times more likely to develop periodontal disease.
Patients with Diabetes at Greater Risk for Dental Diseases
For individuals diagnosed with health conditions like diabetes, the positive effects of routine dental care are even more substantial. Due to the impact diabetes can have on the immune system, individuals with this disease are at greater risk for developing periodontal disease. In the same study, Cigna found that after three years of consecutive routine dental care for customers with diabetes, total medical costs were reduced by an average of 12.25% over five years.
Maintenance Care Following Periodontal Care
In a similar study, customers treated for periodontal disease and who accessed routine care the next two years, a savings of nearly $760 was seen in the final year of the study.
Social Factors Impact Dental Health
The study also highlighted the impact social factors can have on oral health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, social determinants of health are defined as conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. A deeper look at the medical cost savings among study group individuals who are impacted by “very high social determinant factors” found the connection between cost and access to care, and social factors. Those in this subgroup who accessed care routinely had additional savings of 37.3% over those customers who are not impacted by a high social index.
“Insights from studies like this help guide the work we do to develop dental solutions that can help improve whole health,” said Dr. Sun. “Looking to the future, key learnings such as the impact that social determinants of health can have on an individual’s access to care are critical to developing dental solutions that help reduce disparities and ensure equity for all Americans.”
Read the full study here.