In companies with less than 50 employees, only an average of 25% offer dental coverage. While the percentage increases concurrently with company size, it caps at 73% in companies with 500 or more employees. Offering dental coverage is substantially more affordable than its health coverage counterpart, yet it’s an often-overlooked employee benefit.
Build the Best Workforce
Business owners must invest in their biggest asset, their employees, to become and stay productive and financially stable. A study in 2019 found a direct connection between poor dentition and lack of employment. It concluded that potential employees who were missing anterior teeth were less likely to be hired than those without. This association means companies are missing out on quality employees based on their dental health. Furthermore, if companies choose to hire those employees, they’re less likely to perform at their full potential.
When considering desirable employees, a study found that 9 out of 10 potential workers would accept a position with lower pay if benefits such as dental coverage were included. This principally impacts those who are qualified but struggle to land a position based on their appearance.
Maintain Excellence in Productivity
Poor oral health in the workforce leads to sick days due to dental pain, infections, and secondary health outcomes, leaving the employer scrambling to find workers to fill in or bear the cost of decreased productivity. The CDC published a study in which they found that employees lose approximately 164 million work hours for dental visits, costing employers both productivity and money. Preventative care would decrease this total significantly over the course of the worker’s employment.
Improve Customer and Employee Relations
Providing an avenue to good oral health gives rise to healthier employees who feel better about themselves and are better able to communicate with co-workers and customers. A healthy self-image starts with a healthy smile, leading to happier and more helpful employees. Concurrently, customers greeted with healthy smiles, rather than those with tooth decay, missing and yellowing teeth, are more likely to enjoy a positive interaction with your workforce.
Ensure Workforce Health
Offering dental insurance to employees is about more than cost and productivity savings. Dental care significantly impacts the employee’s overall health and wellness.
The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body. With ideal conditions for bacterial growth, such as moisture and warmth, it is a catalyst for poor health outcomes in almost every other body system if not cared for. From respiratory and cardiovascular diseases to poor gut health and devastating pregnancy outcomes, poor dentition can wreak havoc on a person’s body.
Preventative care and maintenance of the mouth is as important as the care of all other body systems.
Prevent Oral Infections and Disease
Many without dental coverage won’t see their dentist until pain or infection sets in. As in many other cases, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even the most standard dental plan covers dental exams and cleanings, providing the dentist an opportunity to catch and repair complications before they grow into something more serious. Humana notes that dentists not only examine the teeth for plaque buildup and decay but assess their patient’s mouth, jaw, and neck as well. In fact, dentists are instrumental in screening the mouth for dangerous oral cancers.
Dental infections result in more than oral pain. In fact, they can affect all other body systems, giving way to dangerous conditions and poor health outcomes.
Enhance Digestive Health
With a direct connection to the digestive system, the mouth’s health directly affects everything that comes after. Researchers have found that an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth due to poor dental care directly contributes to inflammation in the stomach and intestines.
Employees suffering from poor gut health due to poor oral health may require more restroom time than their healthier counterparts. They may even miss work altogether as a result of pain or discomfort in the digestive tract. Furthermore, gut inflammation often leads to fatigue, lack of appetite, and weight loss, symptoms not synonymous with happy, productive employees.
Improve Respiratory Health
Evidence shows that oral health is directly related to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, COPD, lung cancer, and asthma. Essentially, the mouth is the gateway to the lungs, constantly exchanging particles through actions such as breathing and coughing. Many pathogens reside within the oral cavity, particularly in saliva and dental plaque. If left unchecked, they can easily infiltrate the lung tissue, causing dangerous and even life-threatening infections. In people with existing lung conditions, the risk is even more evident.
Offering dental coverage and encouraging its use contributes to a decline in respiratory complications that could keep your employee out of work for days or even weeks at a time.
Ensure Good Heart Health
Good heart health begins with good oral health. A clinical review by Kaiser Permanente highlights the importance of caring for the teeth and gums in protecting the heart. Those with bacterial buildup in the mouth may experience cardiac repercussions as the bacteria travels throughout the body’s bloodstream and invades the heart.
Boost Immune System Function
When bacteria invade the mouth, the body’s immune system kicks into action to fight off the dangerous invaders. The action leads to inflammation and redness of the gums. This condition, called periodontal disease or Gingivitis, often leads to bleeding during brushing and a visual change in the appearance of the gums. Unfortunately, Gingivitis keeps the body’s immune system working overtime as it fights the regular influx of new bacteria, leading to a diminished capacity to fight infections elsewhere.
What does this mean? Employees with poor dentition will struggle to fight off illness, leading to more time missed and lower productivity.
Contribute to Healthy Reproductive Function
It’s not only your workforce that will feel the impact of poor dentition, but their children as well. Pregnant women who don’t receive adequate dental care are at a higher risk of experiencing preterm birth and having babies with low birth weight. The direct effect this will have on the employer includes sudden, unplanned time away from work, additional time off needed, and decreased mood and productivity upon return.
Give the Gift of Overall Health
Anthem, a leading provider of both health and dental insurance, noted that periodontal disease has been linked to Diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other life-altering conditions. For employers who care about the health and life of their employees, it’s clear that providing an avenue to good dentition is an ethical issue as well.
Encourage Dental Maintenance
Sometimes, providing dental coverage just isn’t enough. Keeping dental care at the forefront of your employees’ minds may take a little more encouragement. Start by reminding your employees every six months that it’s time to utilize their preventative care benefits. Next, allow flexible scheduling options for employees who wish to see their dentist and need time off for the appointment. Lastly, for employees without access to proper dental care products, offer items such as toothbrushes and floss from United Healthcare’s list of oral care products for a healthier smile.
When considering the need for employee benefits, health insurance and dental coverage go hand-in-hand. Clearly, a lack of dental insurance not only affects the company and employees financially but contributes to serious health consequences for the worker. Inevitably, the employer will bear the financial and ethical burden of failing to provide dental benefits.
The provision of employer-sponsored dental coverage is vital to building a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce overall.
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Tammy McKinney, RN, creator of HelpfulHospiceNurse, is a healthcare writer and seasoned registered nurse. Drawing from her extensive experience in acute care, long-term care, rehabilitation, drug & alcohol, and hospice & palliative care, she seamlessly merges her medical expertise with her love for writing. You can view a snippet of her portfolio here or contact her directly on LinkedIn!