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Lower Medical Claims Costs Linked to Payer's Dental Program

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, October 23, 2013

I recently spoke with Mary Lee Conicella, DMD, the chief dental officer at Aetna, about the DMI program, its place in the healthcare industry, and the program challenges.


Mary Lee  Conicella, DMD


Mary Lee Conicella, DMD

HLM: What's the relationship between periodontal disease and chronic disease?

Conicella: What has been concluded in the scientific literature is that there is an association between periodontal disease and several chronic conditions. The three conditions with the strongest evidence of associations are the three conditions in our program:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Pregnancy

For example, we know that the inflammation associated with periodontal disease can make it more difficult for a patient with diabetes to control her blood glucose. We have found that members in the program who have diabetes and have started going to the dentist have better control of their blood glucose in subsequent years.

HLM: How do you find potential DMI participants?

Conicella: All of our dental and medical member data is on the same platform. That provides us with the advantage of having all the data in the same place. Our system can easily identify members who have the medical conditions we include in the program. We use a fairly broad algorithm that includes many, many diagnoses codes for identifying those members.

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1 comments on "Lower Medical Claims Costs Linked to Payer's Dental Program"


Keaven Wright,RN,MSN,CRRN (10/30/2013 at 11:47 AM)
It is amazing to me that insurance companies haven't picked up on this before. of course a person with good dental health is going to be healthier than some one who does not. If a person can't chew healthy fresh fruits and vegetables the only option left is overcooked mushy ones and that leads to poor nutrition, high blood sugar , wight gain, high cholesterol and general malnutrition and poorer overall health. It is cheaper to stay healthy than it is to be sick ~!!! good dental health is one of the most important foundations to good health. neglect your teeth at your peril. Sometimes Insurance companies are penny wise and pound foolish!!!!! If Premiums for Insurance don't cover dental health care and check ups then often the cost is so much more over the long term.