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Dental Care Education: The Connection Between Oral Care and Chronic Illness

By Tracey Lewis | Dec 13, 2017

Maintaining good oral health involves more than just staving off cavities. In fact, recent studies show that there's an inherent connection between proper dental care education and one's risk of battling a chronic disease. For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, poor oral health can contribute to endocarditis and cardiovascular disease. Read on for an overview on how to educate your members on the relationship between dental hygiene and their overall health.


A recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that gum disease (periodontitis) can serve as a valuable risk indicator for diabetes. On the other hand, poorly controlled diabetes can have a profound effect on your oral health. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), there are a variety of oral complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes, including periodontitis and gingivitis. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic notes that diabetics who smoke increase their chances of developing periodontal disease by a factor of 20. Therefore, dentists and hygienists are on the front lines of both preventing and diagnosing diabetes.


Cardiovascular Disease

According to DentistryIQ, those with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease. "Bacteria found in infected gum tissue around teeth break down the barrier between the gums and the underlying connective tissue, causing inflammation." This bacteria can then enter the bloodstream and move to other parts of the circulatory system, which may be a contributing factor to cardiovascular disease.


Educating Members About Dental Hygiene

Providing the necessary dental care education is a key aspect of advising your members about their overall health. Sadly, the host of complications associated with untreated dental diseases may lead to a profound negative impact on a member's quality of life. In addition to pain, untreated dental problems may cause tooth loss and accompanying damage to self-esteem, as well as recurring, severe infections.

The most effective tactics for raising awareness are:

  • Incorporating oral health education in workplace wellness programs
  • Encouraging members to utilize their dental benefits via social media, worksite posters and email reminders
  • Implementing or expanding oral health care outreach in worksite health fairs
  • Providing messaging on how to improve dental health through proper hygiene
  • Encouraging healthy eating, smoking cessation programs and proper brushing/flossing techniques
  • Promoting regular dentist visits


Having the right dental coverage is important, especially for members who may be pregnant or have a chronic illness, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. Anthem developed the "Whole Health Connection" integrated program. This joins dental and health care in Anthem's Dental Blue, Dental Prime and Dental Complete plans to members also enrolled in the Diabetic or Maternal Health Care Management programs. These members receive an additional cleaning or periodontal maintenance visit each benefit period to monitor and address problems before they escalate.


Tracey Lewis, journalist and author, focuses primarily on B2B health care, financial services and other internal corporate communications. Author of a best-selling, pop-culture book published by Random House Books, and a trained oral historian, Tracey also enjoys delving into music, arts and film content. Skilled in SEO optimization and digital storytelling, she knows how to collaborate with communications, policy, research, legal and designer teams to create and execute cohesive content strategies.