Why offering dental insurance isn’t enough

A combination of benefits and education may be necessary for greater employee wellness.

These days, most people understand that going to the dentist is an important step in staying healthy. But it might not be enough to offer your employees a dental plan. Here’s why.

Just because they see the value doesn’t mean they use the coverage

According to the Health Policy Institute of the American Dental Association1, 97 percent of American adults value oral health, 95 percent agree that regular dental visits keep them healthy, and 85 percent say they know they need to visit the dentist twice a year. Yet only 37 percent of adults have actually visited a dentist – at all – in the last year.

Why the big discrepancy? Do adults just not need to go to the dentist? Are their teeth already healthy and clean? Nope, that’s not it.

In fact, these statistics show that many young adults, at least, are not happy with the condition of their mouth and teeth1:

  • 38 percent of young adults find life in general less satisfying due to the condition of their mouth and teeth
  • Over one-third have difficulty biting and chewing
  • 22 percent socialize less often because of their teeth
  • 35 percent feel embarrassed by how bad their teeth are

It looks like people are going to the hospital, not the dentist

However, instead of using the dental preventive care services that are available to them, it looks like many people are waiting until their mouths or teeth get really bad – then they are going to the emergency room for treatment.

  • Every 15 seconds, on average, someone visits a hospital emergency department for a dental condition.
  • There were 2.2 million hospital emergency department visits for dental conditions in 2015.
  • 70% of hospital emergency room visits for dental conditions took place outside of normal business hours.

While some people visit the emergency room because they don’t have dental insurance or don’t have transportation or funds to go to a dentist, nearly two-thirds, or 164 million, Americans have private dental coverage, through either their employer, a group program, or individual insurance plans.2

They don’t think other health issues are tied to dental problems

One reason that people might not use their dental insurance is that they don’t see the connection between their lifestyle choices and dental problems. Just like unhealthy habits can cause health issues to the body, they can also cause health issues for the teeth and mouth. Many people may not realize that oral cancer, or cancer of the jaw, lips, gums, tongue, throat or cheek lining, kills one American every hour or every day, according to the National Cancer Institute.3 That death toll is higher than many better-known cancers, such as melanoma.

And what are the main causes of oral cancer? Smoking and drinking.

  • People who use tobacco are six times more likely to develop oral cancer. Eight in 10 oral cancer patients are smokers.
  • 80 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer consume more than 21 drinks a week.

So, what is the answer? How can you help keep your employees healthy?

It seems that while lifestyle choices greatly affect not only our dental health but overall health, many people just aren’t aware of the consequences of their daily actions. One way to help your employee stay healthy is to offer a dental plan along with a broad Employee Assistance Program that includes programs that address the mental and behavioral health issues such as smoking and excessive drinking. A dental plan that offers 100% coverage for preventive care can encourage people to go see the dentist more often, allowing their dentist to spot problems early. A solid EAP can help people deal with anxiety over teeth that aren’t perfect – and can help them quit bad habits that can lead to increased risk of cancer or other major health issues. And the combination may be just what your employees need.

Health and well-being education may also be a necessity, to help employees understand that the choices they make in their daily lives can affect their health – including their teeth and mouth, body, and mind.

  1. www.ADA.org/HPI
  2. www.nadp.org/Dental_Benefits_Basics/Dental_BB_1.aspx
  3. www.gotoapro.org/facts-figures
HIPAA  |  Legal
GE-2282937 (10/2018) (Exp. 10/2020)