Treating gum disease may lower type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes costs, study finds

Treating individuals with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes for gum disease could lead to lower overall medical costs for those patients, according to a new study from dental plan provider CIGNA.

The findings of the study, which were presented recently at a meeting of the International Association for Dental Research, indicate that diabetics who received initial treatment and follow-up care for gum disease spent $2,483 less on total medical costs per year, compared to diabetics who did not receive follow-up treatments. This equated to a 23 percent overall reduction.

The researchers said that their findings confirm the results of several previous studies, all of which showed a connection between gum disease and other cardiovascular and metabolic maladies. They said that this evidence should convince diabetics that the condition of their mouth is closely connected to their overall health and should be treated as such.

"Periodontal disease can place individuals with diabetes at greater risk for diabetic complications, including mortality from cardiovascular disease and diabetic nephropathy," said Margorie Jeffcoat, who led the investigation. "Advancing our understanding on how treatment for gum disease can affect the health of people with diabetes will help lead to the creation of evidence-based treatment standards."

She added that this could translate into significant reductions in medical costs for individuals with diabetes, which continue to rise at alarming rates and threaten to overwhelm the healthcare system.

While the study was unable to answer the question of how exactly oral health affects the general condition of individuals with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, the researchers said that establishing the link was important so that future studies may be able to further clarify the issue.