CIGNA Corp. is trying to reduce the risk of premature birth by providing new dental benefits for plan members who are pregnant.[@@]

Starting Jan. 1, 2006, CIGNA dental plans will cover 100% of the cost of gum scaling and root planing for plan members who are pregnant and have both CIGNA health coverage and fully insured CIGNA dental coverage.

CIGNA also will offer each pregnant member of CIGNA health and dental plans an additional cleaning during pregnancy, according CIGNA, Philadelphia.

CIGNA is adding the new dental benefits for pregnant members in part because of a study that showed that treating pregnant women with gum disease with scaling and root planing could cut those women’s risk of giving birth prematurely by as much as 87% and because of other research suggesting that gum disease might contribute to preeclampsia, a condition that can kill fetuses and sometimes kills the mothers.

Some studies have implied that gum disease could cause as many as 135,000 premature births and births of dangerously thin babies per year, leading to hundreds of fetal and infant deaths and billions of dollars in potentially preventable medical expenditures.