A Medical Dental Integration Study was published by United Healthcare March 2013.(1) The study, which was a performed by Optum, a health services company, on behalf of United Healthcare, evaluated the impact of several dental treatments on medical and pharmacy costs for individuals with chronic medical conditions.(2) 

Results are divided by chronic condition as well as by whether or not individuals were compliant with managing their chronic condition. This removes compliance bias from the study. An additional analysis was performed on chronic conditions that are comorbid with diabetes.

Persons in this study consisted of 130,546 United Healthcare commercial dental and medical members between the ages of 18 and 65. Net medical costs for members who received dental care, such as periodontal treatment or an oral prophylaxis, was on average $1,037 lower than medical costs (or $701 when including drugs) for members who received other or no dental care, such as extractions, root canals, restorative treatment, other dental claims or no dental claims, after adjusting for the extra expense of the dental care. 

The largest medical savings ($1,849 for just medical or $1,706 including Rx) were for members who were not medically compliant with their disease management program and received dental care after adjusting for the extra expense of the dental care. Members who were medically compliant with their disease management program and received dental care achieved an average net savings of $264.

Generally, total medical costs were significantly lower for individuals with chronic medical conditions who received periodontal treatment or a preventive prophylaxis within the timeframe of this study, even when considering the costs of additional dental treatments. Net savings were realized, irrespective of medical compliance. However, savings were substantially greater ($1,849) for non-medically compliant individuals than they were for individuals who were compliant with their medical condition ($264).














Savings for individuals receiving preventive dental care were observed across all chronic medical disease categories in this study. On the other hand, members who received extractions, root canals, restorative treatments and no preventive or periodontal treatment had the highest health care spend, demonstrating a potential link between the lack of a preventive dental pattern and overall medical costs. Again, we find evidence of prevention saving dollars.

In this study, savings from preventive treatment for many of the chronic conditions were primarily driven by a preventive prophylaxis. An exception was observed for diabetics, where periodontal treatment, specifically non-surgical periodontal treatment, had the lowest medical cost of any other dental treatment group.

According to the authors, future studies should reflect tracking a homogenous group of members with similar chronic conditions, costs and severities who have received different dental treatments, and to follow their average costs over a multi-year time period. As well, as more data becomes available, additional portions of this study will turn credible, specifically various cancer conditions. 

For more information, read the complete report.(1)

1. http://www.uhc.com/live/uhc_com/Assets/Documents/B2H_Study.pdf.
2. http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/businesses/optum.aspx.


Christine Taxin
36 Abington Avenue
Ardsley New York 10502
United States of America