Dental insurance is often looked at as an extra benefit – one that’s nice to have but by no means necessary. Whether you’re an employer thinking it’s something your employees don’t need, or an employee planning to skip the coverage to save premium dollars, you may want to reconsider.
Oral Health Goes Beyond Teeth
Routine dental exams and preventive care can help to identify a host of chronic diseases including dementia, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and osteoporosis. While each of these illnesses has its own symptoms, many share some like dry mouth, loose teeth or inflamed gums. Erosions on the teeth can point to conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or eating disorders.
Preventing illness or catching it early has been shown to reduce costs, both on an individual and business level. Skipping out on dental care to save money can end up costing you big in the long run.
Dentals Woes are Bad for Business
Who wants to go to work when they are in pain? It seems no one does. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, “Employed adults lose more than 164 million hours of work each year due to dental disease or dental visits.” This reduction in productivity has multiple negative effects for employers. Employees who are chronically absent will naturally be less productive. This could lead to resentment from other coworkers if they are left holding the bag. Employers who must discipline or terminate the offending employee will suffer financially and from a loss of productivity as a replacement is sought.
Special Considerations for Pregnant Women
Pregnant women have additional concerns when it comes to oral health. Hormonal changes leave expectant mothers at higher risk for periodontal disease or an exacerbation of existing dental problems. A study conducted by Cigna found that many women who do not seek dental care during pregnancy have concerns about the cost and that those lacking dental insurance are twice as likely to skip checkups.
Isn’t Dental Covered Under the ACA?
You may have heard that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides dental coverage. While dental coverage is included in some plans, it is only pediatric dental coverage that is mandated through the ACA. Most plans do not provide any coverage at all for adults.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has said that the most apparent barrier to adults obtaining dental care is the cost. Participation in a dental program can help to lessen that barrier and allow individuals to see preventive care on a routine basis. However, according to the National Association of Dental Plans, 92% of Americans with private dental plans in 2014 obtained them through an employer or group association and only 7% buy their own individual plan. 114 million Americans have no dental insurance at all.
Dental Insurance Is a Win-Win
Businesses would be wise to consider adding a dental plan to their employee benefits package and encouraging employees to participate. If your employer offers dental, don’t pass it up!
Dental care is an important part of an individual’s preventive care and access to dental insurance can increase the likelihood that people will see a dentist regularly. Healthy teeth and gums along with mindful management of preventive services help everyone.
This post has been updated from its original run on February 3, 2016.
All insurance policies are different. Be sure to review your insurance policy for specific information about coverages available to you. Nothing in this post is meant to suggest a guarantee of coverage.