Brushing, flossing, and getting routine dental checkups can do more than brighten your smile. A growing body of research shows they can improve your overall health and reduce your chances of life-threatening medical conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Consider these findings:
- The Mayo Clinic reports that improper oral healthcare can raise the risk for certain cancers, infected heart linings, pneumonia, eating disorders, and arthritis.
- According to the American Dental Association, evidence suggests oral bacteria could be linked to heart disease, arterial blockages, and strokes.
- The National Institutes of Health connects chronic gum disease to poorer blood-sugar control in diabetics. It also links it to pregnancy problems, including premature deliveries.
For businesses, this means offering employees dental coverage – and encouraging them to use it – can lead to a healthier workforce far beyond their teeth and gums. It also can save both employers and employees money in the long run.
A 2019 study funded partly by Capital Blue Cross showed higher rates of hospitalizations and emergency department visits for people who did not, or could not, access preventive dental services. The study looked at the differences in medical cost and utilization between Capital Blue Cross members with chronic conditions who had dental coverage and received preventive dental services, versus those with chronic conditions who lacked dental coverage.
The study found people with chronic conditions but no dental coverage had a 7% higher incidence rate of inpatient hospital stays than those who had dental coverage and received a preventive dental service. Those who had dental coverage but did not use it to receive preventive services had a 19% higher rate of emergency department visits than those with dental coverage who received preventive services.
The bottom line: Having and using dental coverage can help avoid costly hospital and ER visits. For employers, that can translate into a more reliable workforce with fewer absences due to medical issues.
Capital Blue Cross uses a dual approach to encourage employees in its group plans to make the most of their dental coverage.
First, it offers a plan with low or no member cost-sharing for diagnostic and preventive services. The plan fully covers (no co-pays or deductibles) things like routine exams, cleanings, and bitewing x-rays. It also provides an additional oral exam and cleaning for pregnant and diabetic employees.
To encourage use of the dental benefits, Capital engages in ongoing communication and education about its dental plans. For customer companies, Capital Blue Cross can provide a dental wellness awareness toolkit, with resources that explain the benefits of oral wellness.