Study Shows Preventive Dental Care May Help Reduce Risk Of Preterm Birth

Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and Aetna Presented Findings at International Dental Research Institute Conference

HARTFORD, Conn., October 01, 2008 — 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 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 2005.1 


"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.2  


About Aetna Dental
Aetna Dental is one of the nation's leading providers of integrated and stand-alone dental products, serving more than 14 million dental members. Aetna Dental has also established itself as a leader in the research and execution of dental/medical integration programs. It launched its own program in 2006, which includes enhanced benefits and educational outreach to members to help them achieve optimal health.


About Aetna
Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 37.2 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates.


1  Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2006.


2  An Examination of Periodontal Treatment and Per Member Per Month (PMPM) Medical Costs in an Insured Population, BMC Health Services Research, August 16, 2006.

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