Friday, June 22, 2007

Patients With Heart Conditions Get New Benefit

Expanded Coverage Available to Groups May Help Patients Avoid Deadly Heart Infections

Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee (Delta Dental), one of the nation’s largest dental benefits providers, announced today the availability of expanded group coverage for patients with certain heart conditions to help them avoid infective endocarditis, a deadly heart infection. Delta Dental is the first dental benefits carrier in the United States to offer such coverage.

The announcement comes on the heels of new guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) recommending that only patients whose heart disease places them at the highest risk for infective endocarditis receive antibiotics as a preventive measure prior to dental treatment. This is a major change from previous recommendations, which called for premedication for a much larger group of patients with heart conditions. Instead, the AHA concluded that an increased emphasis should be placed on maintaining good oral health, citing that the cumulative exposure to bacteria from routine daily activities during one year may be as high as 5.6 million times greater than the exposure resulting from one tooth extraction. Infective endocarditis occurs when bacteria, often from the mouth, enters the bloodstream and attacks the lining of the heart.

An extensive analysis of treatment data conducted by Delta Dental’s Research and Data Institute played a key role in helping the AHA develop its new guidelines.

Specifically, the benefit increases the frequency of dental or periodontal cleanings to four annually (versus the traditional two) for individuals with heart conditions that place them at high or moderate risk for developing infective endocarditis. The benefit was developed to help at-risk individuals better maintain their oral health to reduce bacteria levels in the mouth in an effort to lower their risk for infective endocarditis. The conditions include:

A history of infective endocarditis
Certain congenital heart defects such as having one ventricle instead of the normal two
Individuals with artificial heart valves
Heart valve defects caused by acquired conditions like rheumatic heart disease
Hypertropic cardiomyopathy, which causes abnormal thickening of the heart muscle
Individuals with pulmonary shunts or conduits
Mitral valve prolapse with regurgitation (blood leakage)

“After a thorough review of the scientific research, and in consultation with the American Heart Association, we have decided to offer these evidence-based benefits to improve the overall health of individuals with certain heart conditions,” said Dr. Jed Jacobson, senior vice president and chief science officer of Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee. “The additional dental or periodontal cleanings should help these patients avoid potentially deadly heart infections.”

The benefit is being offered to Delta Dental group customers as part of the company’s evidence-based benefits for high-risk medical patients.

Delta Dental was a pioneer in using evidence-based research to evolve dental plan designs beginning in the mid-1980s. In 2004, the company became the first to cover the cost of the OralCDx brush biopsy test for the early detection of oral cancer. Last year, the company introduced enhanced benefits for diabetics and pregnant women with gum disease, for those experiencing kidney failure or who are undergoing dialysis, and for those with suppressed immune systems due to chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment, HIV infection, organ transplant, and/or stem cell (bone marrow) transplant.

The affiliated Delta Dental companies of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee collectively are one of the largest dental plan administrators in the nation. In 2006, the enterprise paid out more than $1.7 billion for dental care for more than 6.2 million enrollees. Offices are located in Okemos and Farmington Hills, Mich.; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Indianapolis and Greenwood, Ind; and, Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis, Tenn.

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