Delta Dental of Tennessee is the latest dental insurer to respond to studies suggesting that poorly controlled periodontal disease may lead to catastrophic health problems.

Tennessee Delta, Nashville, Tenn., says it will offer extra dental benefits for plan members who are pregnant and plan members with medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney failure starting in January 2007.

Tennessee Delta is expanding access to benefits for those plan members because of scientific reports concluding that gum problems may be responsible for many premature births and for some diabetics’ difficulties with controlling blood sugar levels, the company says.

Eligible plan members may get coverage for 4 cleanings per year and may get free access to extra fluoride treatments, the company says.

Tennessee Delta also will begin including coverage for “endosteal” tooth implants, which are implanted in the jaw, in standard treatment benefits, the company says.

Tennessee Delta will not cover subperiosteal implants, which fit on top of the bone under the gums, because of concerns that the implants do not work as well as endosteal implants, the company says.