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Strategies

The value of more widespread oral care can't be overstated.  Consider these dental and non-dental cases:

  • Diabetes: Diabetes not only worsens in the presence of gum disease but also serves as a risk factor for gum disease.  If 60% of people with diabetes better managed their oral health, savings could equal close to $39 billion per year.
  • Pregnancy: Poor oral health can complicate pregnancy, contributing to gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth  If 40% of pregnant women received the benefits of oral care, thus avoiding the additional medical costs of gum disease, savings could equal approximately $7 billion.
  • Lung Disease: The mouth retains respiratory pathogens, so oral health affects lung health, especially for people with Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP).  If 50% of VAP patients received oral care, estimated annual savings could reach $5 billion.
  • Emergency Room Visits: Many people wait until their dental pain becomes severe and end up in the ER, which is much costlier than care in a dental office.  If 50% of dental-related emergency room visits were handled in a community setting, the system could save around $826 million.
  • Oral Cancer: Routine dental visits help detect oral cancer early on, which can lead to less complicated treatments, lower costs and higher survival rates.  If 20% more oral cancer cases were detected early, estimated annual savings would range from $338 million to $495 million.
  • Dental Sealants: These coatings placed on the surface of teeth are a simple, effective way to prevent decay (and reduce spending on more involved care) among low-income children.  If 50% of these children benefited from dental sealants, savings could equal around $101 million.

These striking outcomes all underscore the far-reaching influence of oral care. When treated as an essential part of medical care, oral care improves overall health—in turn promising savings for individuals, employers and taxpayers.

ONE OF EVERY $6 DOLLARS in our economy is spent on health care.  While there are complex reasons for this, one of the biggest underlying factors is the economic burden of chronic disease.  Altogether, conditions such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes make up 75 percent of the total health care tab.  Among these conditions, diabetes is a major player—an epidemic in its own right.

The disease is prevalent, complicated and costly. More than 9 percent of the population suffered from diabetes in 2012, and about 1 in every 5 health care dollars was spent on diabetes that same year—$245 billion total.

People with diabetes are vulnerable to a host of serious conditions that are expensive to treat, including heart disease, kidney disease, and eye and foot damage.  Managing diabetes both physically and financially hinges upon reducing the risk of these secondary conditions.