CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has passed a dental membership milestone by providing dental coverage for over 550,000 members. That number represents a 45 percent increase in dental membership since January 2005.

“With over 2.3 million covered health members we feel BCBST is in a unique position to help Tennesseans manage these overall health issues,” said Jeff Price, BlueCross Director of Dental Plans. “With over 1,800 participating PPO dentists in Tennessee, we see the dental community’s commitment to the betterment of overall health for their patients. What we have accomplished could not have been done without the support of the dental provider community”

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that several studies link poor dental hygiene with serious health problems. The reasons are not fully understood, but, in the case of preterm births, bacteria around the root of the tooth may cause a substance that induces labor.

“We see dental care as a critical component to the overall health of our members. There are many health-related illnesses that can be better managed and some even prevented with proper dental care,” Price said. “We recognize dental as another key benefit that allows BlueCross to help our members manage their overall health. Clinical studies are indicating that periodontal disease can lead to complications associated with diabetes; low birth weight babies, cardiovascular disease and organ transplant failures.”

Linking dental health to overall health will continue to be a primary focus for BlueCross in 2007.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.