Why Connect Dental Data To Population Health?

by Scott Towers

June 15, 2017

This is part of a series of six blog posts about integrated health care. Check out the previous posts and keep an eye out for the next one.

A healthy mouth is more than a great smile and dental care is more than just teeth. In fact, the health of your gums and teeth are a big part of your overall health.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, 90 percent of diseases show signs and symptoms in the mouth. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, are better managed with good dental health. Periodontal (gum) disease can greatly impact the sugar levels of those suffering from diabetes and patients with diabetes who treat their periodontal disease have lower medical costs.

The big picture isn’t pretty

An increasingly unhealthy population is costing everyone — consumers, doctors, employers and insurance carriers. It’s costing money, and it’s taking a toll on quality of life/productivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of all adults in the U.S. have a chronic condition, which drives 86 percent of health care costs.

But it can get better

Integrated population health management (IPHM) lets employers enhance their population health program with more data, more insights and more member engagement opportunities. IPHM is typically a no-cost value-add with no implementation setup when employers use a single carrier for their medical and dental benefits.

So put your health care dollars where your mouth is

It is easy to take your teeth for granted, but they play a major role in your overall health. The CDC says more than 64 million Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease and more than six billion dollars of productivity is lost each year because people miss work to get dental care. Good oral health is key to helping manage certain conditions. For example, if someone has diabetes, gum disease could affect the ability to control blood sugar. Even something as simple as losing a tooth can lead to an annual earnings loss of $720 a year.1

See what integrated health care can do

By connecting dental data to an employer’s population health platform, IPHM allows patients, doctors and carrier care managers to use a team approach to help members maintain oral and overall health.

  • Members who are pregnant or have certain conditions like diabetes or heart disease, which benefit from good oral health, are automatically identified and notified of an additional cleaning benefit.
  • Dental care alerts are shared with doctors, members and care managers to create more member engagement opportunities.
  • And more member engagement opportunities can translate into lower costs. One study found that patients who had a chronic disease or were pregnant and treated their gum disease had up to 41 percent fewer hospitalizations and 74 percent lower medical costs.2

One analysis found that care alerts and clinical communications to members, doctors and care managers have shown big engagement results — 270,000 monthly dental care gaps identified, with 20,000 closed monthly.3

The time is now to connect the health care dots

Integrated dental and medical care is bringing a big-picture view of health to the forefront of a national conversation. It’s the right approach to fundamentally change the way health care works and make it work better for everyone.

Early detection is key to managing many health issues and connected dental and medical plans make it easier to catch problems, when they are most treatable. Learn more in the Integrated Health Care Dental Report.

Scott Towers is President, Dental Business, at Anthem, Inc.


1 The National Bureau of Economic Research website, The Economic Value of Teeth (March 2008): nber.org.
2 Am J Prev Med 2014; Impact of Periodontal Therapy on General Health: Evidence from Insurance Data for Five Systemic Conditions; 47(2):166–174.
3 Anthem Inc.’s affiliated companies’ data 2016.