Reducing Medical Costs of Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes spend 2.3 times more in medical care than people without diabetes. As the cost of health care rises, the cost of this epidemic also rises. With almost 26 million diabetics in the United States, the health costs are staggering. Nearly 8.3 percent of the U.S. population is affected. And it is predicted that in 25 years, the number of diabetics will double. Diabetes affects all ages and cuts across all ethnic backgrounds. In the United States, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death. The risk of death is twice as high for people with diabetes than those of the same age without diabetes.

Current growing evidence shows a strong link between periodontal disease and controlling blood sugar levels. Approximately one half of all diabetics suffer from some sort of periodontal disease. Those patients with diabetes have more severe periodontal issues than those without diabetes. And patients with periodontal disease have a higher risk of diabetic complications. It is a chicken and egg conundrum.

A study by United Concordia (a dental insurance carrier) and Highmark (a medical insurance carrier) was done examining periodontal treatment and its association with health care costs for diabetics. The longitudinal study over a three year period compared diabetic patients with periodontal disease who received treatment for periodontal disease versus diabetic patients with periodontal disease who did not receive treatment for periodontal disease. There was a significant drop in medical costs for the diabetic patients that underwent periodontal treatment. An average of $1,477 per year was saved on prescription drugs and an additional $1,814 per year on hospital and doctor visits, compared to those diabetics who did not treat their periodontal disease.

The implications of such a study are obvious. Individuals could benefit both financially and health-wise by visiting their dentist and treating periodontal disease. Health insurance companies’ bottom line could be positively impacted by covering and encouraging diabetic patients to treat their periodontal disease. Both efforts would greatly reduce health care costs (that are well above $218 billion per year) for diabetics.

According to Marjorie Jeffcoat, lead researcher for the study, professor and dean emeritus of the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Dental Medicine, “There have been emerging links between oral infections and systemic diseases such as diabetes, which is increasingly prevalent in our population. My research team and I had looked at other datasets and we knew that health care costs could be reduced, but we wanted to look at the hospitalizations and see how those could be reduced. This study provided direct insight as to how lower hospitalizations could be achieved through periodontal therapy.”

What is additionally significant is that Jeffcoat’s team has expanded this study by analyzing other chronic diseases and conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and pregnancy with pre-term birth.

Read more articles from Dr. Piero on the oral-systemic connection here. For a free PDF file of the book Never Brush Your Teeth Again!, email


United Concordia Oral Health Study: The Results
Periodontal disease and diabetes. A two-way street.