Most employers offer dental benefits to employees and dependents. If you don’t, you should consider it. There’s plenty of research linking good oral health to better mental health and overall wellness. And the evidence is growing that routine dental care could reduce your medical claims costs.
In 9 of the scariest medical conditions with links to oral health, the Modern Dental Network compiled research showing that bacteria in the mouth can cause serious medical conditions.
A University of Birmingham study showed that patients with chronic kidney disease and periodontitis had a higher mortality rate than those with chronic kidney disease alone.
Various research has shown a link between patients hospitalized for acute stroke and oral infections.
Research discovered that postmenopausal women with periodontal disease are more likely to develop breast cancer.
Patients in the ICU who received enhanced dental care had significantly less risk of developing lower respiratory tract infections.
According a study in the International Journal of Cancer, oral infections are a contributing factor to esophageal cancer.
Research found that tooth loss could be a predictor for future cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, coronary heart disease, and myocardial infarction.
While this is hotly debated, two researchers extensively examined a collection of research on the disease and determined that there is a potential correlation between Alzheimer’s and oral bacteria.
A Case Western Reserve University study found that byproducts of bacteria in gum disease, called metabolic small chain fatty acid, can activate HIV in dormant T-cells, causing the HIV virus to replicate.
The Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and the Departments of Urology and Pathology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center reported that treating gum disease reduced symptoms of prostate inflammation.
Other Risks of Poor Oral Health
Poor oral health is also thought to increase risk for people with diabetes and for pregnant women.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, periodontal disease interferes with glycemic control.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that as many as 18% of preterm, low birth weight babies born in the US each year may be related to oral infections. They claim that the oral bacteria releases toxins into the bloodstream, which then enter the placenta and interfere with fetal growth and development. Oral infection can also cause the mother to produce labor-triggering substances, which could cause premature labor and birth.
Are Your Employees Visiting a Dentist?
Poor oral health clearly impacts health, yet nearly 50 million working adults haven’t received dental treatment in at least 2 years (The Fifth Annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study, Dental Benefits: A Bridge to Oral Health & Wellness). Income, gender, and where people live play a big role in who sees the dentist.
|Household Income of $150,000+||72%||Household Income of $25,000-$49,000||36%|
|Work for Larger Firms
|58%||Work for Smaller Firms (< 50 employees)||45%|
Cost is the primary reason people choose not to seek dental care across all age groups, especially for those making less than $50,000. The study also reported that 4 in 10 adults skip or delay dental care when their out-of-pocket costs rise.
Employers Have Been Changing Dental Benefits
Dental benefits have been impacted by employer cost-cutting measures over the past 5 years, contributing to the number of employees not seeking or delaying care.
Promoting Your Dental Benefit
The health and well-being of your employees is important to your company and its bottom line. Good dental hygiene contributes to both. Here are some things you can do to encourage your employees to reduce their health risks by taking care of their oral health.
Improve Your Coverage
- Cover at least 2 cleanings per year.
- Pay for preventive dental services at 100% so employees have no out-of-pocket costs.
- Don’t count preventive services against your plan’s annual maximum.
- Waive the deductible for preventive services, especially if employees go to a network dentist.
Offer Incentives for In-Network Care
- Identify the dentists your employees frequent to minimize disruption (people are very loyal to their dentists).
- Work with your vendor to streamline the claim submission and payment process to reduce paperwork and make it easier for employees.
Open Your Mouth
- Explain the importance of dental hygiene during open enrollment.
- Hold a brown bag lunch to discuss the risks of poor oral health.
- Send emails and other reminders throughout the year.
- Publish an article in your employee newsletter.
Promoting the benefit will increase your dental program costs, but could reduce your medical costs. And it could save a life.