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Dental Care Can Reduce Risk Of Preterm Birth By Nearly 50 Percent


Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and Aetna presented findings at international Dental Research Institute conference

According to a study conducted by Aetna (NYSE: AET) and Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, women who received dental care before or during their pregnancy had a lower risk of giving birth to a preterm or low birth weight baby than pregnant women who didn’t seek dental care at all. The study, conducted between January 1, 2003 and September 30, 2006, reviewed medical and dental insurance data for 29,000 pregnant women who each had medical and dental coverage with Aetna to determine if there was an association between dental treatment and the likelihood of experiencing either birth outcome.

“Further studies need to be done but our findings show that dental treatment had a protective effect on adverse birth outcomes in women who sought dental treatment,” said David A. Albert, DDS, MPH, Director, Division of Community Health, College of Dental Medicine, Columbia University.

When comparing the group who did not receive any dental treatment to the groups that received gum treatment and dental cleaning, the study found:

* The preterm birth rate was 11.0 percent for those not receiving dental treatment, and 6.4 percent for those receiving treatment
* The low birth weight rate was 5.4 percent for those not receiving dental treatment and 3.6 percent or lower among the groups receiving treatment

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies determined that premature births, meaning babies born at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy, cost at least $26 billion a year and represented 12.5 percent of births in the U.S. in 2005.

“The results of this study send a strong message about the importance of dental care for women who want to start a family,” said Dr. Mary Lee Conicella, DMD, FAGD, National Director of Clinical Operations, Aetna Dental. “We are seeing evidence that supports the role of routine preventive dental care in helping to protect the health of the newborn and the mother and contributing to lower associated medical costs.”

Aetna provides educational information about the importance of good oral health to women who are planning to become pregnant, as identified in responses to its Health Risk Assessment tool. Aetna also provides a dental/medical integration (DMI) program to pregnant women and at-risk members with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases who have both Aetna dental and medical coverage. The program is comprised of enhanced benefits, including an extra cleaning, full coverage for certain periodontal services and a variety of outreach methods to at-risk members who are not currently seeking dental care. As a result of various outreach methods during a two-year pilot with 500,000 Aetna members, 63 percent of those at-risk members who had not been to the dentist in 12 months sought dental care.

“The findings from this latest study we conducted continue to show that members with certain conditions who are engaged in seeking preventive care, such as regular dental visits, can improve their overall health and quality of life,” said Alan Hirschberg, head of Aetna Dental.

Aetna Dental launched its DMI program last fall following a published research analysis it conducted with Columbia University College of Dental Medicine which found that high-risk individuals that sought earlier dental care lowered the risk or severity of their condition and subsequently, lowered their overall medical costs.


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