Word of Mouth

Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Accessibility — more than just a buzzword

When most people think of accessibility, they may think of wheelchair ramps and designated parking spaces. But when it comes to ensuring high-quality care for your employees, accessibility is about more than the physical world. Accessibility extends into digital spaces and into the interactions that people have in their day-to-day lives. Let’s take a look at the ways accessibility can be an important part of dental insurance and what it means for your employees.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is about making an experience available to the widest group of people, including those with physical or cognitive disabilities. That can include:

  • Using alternate text in images so that screen readers can describe them to users who are blind
  • Providing transcripts of videos for users who are deaf
  • Designing websites simply for users who have cognitive disabilities

What this means for your employees is simple: when your employees visit Delta Dental’s website or need to call customer service, their questions will be answered and their needs will be met, no matter their abilities.

Why does accessibility matter?

“[Accessibility] improves people’s lives. And how often do you get a chance in your job to dramatically improve other people’s lives by just doing your work a little better?”

  • Steve Krug, user experience professional

There are legal reasons to make accessibility a priority. Under laws such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, it is illegal to have federal electronic and information technology inaccessible to people with disabilities or to discriminate on the basis of disability.

But accessibility is about more than just avoiding a lawsuit. Accessibility is about inclusivity for all of your employees, no matter their needs. With just a little effort, impediments like being unable to hear a video or read a website can be overcome, and more people will be able to access the quality care that they deserve.

Additionally, designing websites and implementing customer service practices that make life easier for those with disabilities often makes life easier for everyone. Regardless of their abilities, everyone appreciates simple and intuitive designs and being able to change settings to their personal preferences when it comes to interacting with websites and customer service platforms.

What is Delta Dental doing to advance accessibility?

At Delta Dental, we are committed to ensuring the accessibility of our products and services for everyone. We are committed to providing a platform that goes beyond mere compliance and seeks to provide a more meaningful experience for our customers with diverse backgrounds, abilities and perceptions. Our website and other products comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 levels A/AA, section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), in addition to other local governing laws. For more information, see our accessibility statement.

In real terms, that means supporting the web browsers your employees might use, including Chrome, Edge, Safari and Firefox in desktop and mobile web views, as well as assistive technology including, but not limited to, screen readers and magnifiers on various platforms. We also provide services for non-English speaking employees through the Language Assistance Program (LAP). Through LAP, your employees can request documents in accessible formats, like Braille, and have on-site American Sign Language interpreters accompany them during dental visits. To take advantage of these services, including instructions on requesting an on-site interpreter, your employees can visit our language assistance page or call customer service.

Accessibility is about more than just checking boxes and meeting requirements. It’s really about providing a high quality experience for everyone. We’re proud to join you in bringing all of your employees great dental care.

How to support your Asian American and Pacific Islander employees

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and it’s a great time to celebrate and honor your AAPI employees. In addition to fun and festivities at work, one way to help your employees feel seen and heard is to offer them quality benefits that fit their needs. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to let your AAPI employees know you have their back.

What hurdles do AAPI populations face when accessing dental care?

In general, racial and ethnic minorities can face extra difficulties when it comes to accessing oral health care in the United States. When it comes to AAPI populations, individuals’ time spent in the United States is the strongest predictor of whether or not they’ve recently visited the dentist. Native-born and long-time residents are more likely to visit the dentist than recent immigrants for three reasons:

  • They’ve likely had more experience with the U.S. health care system. Outside the U.S., dental and medical are often both covered through the same insurance system and may even be available within a single medical center. New immigrants face a learning curve navigating the U.S. system.
  • They’re likely more comfortable communicating in English. Language barriers can make it difficult to find dental insurance, understand coverage and communicate with a dentist.
  • They’re likely wealthier than recent immigrants, so they have an easier time accessing and affording care. Wealth increases for immigrants of all races as the time they spend in the U.S. increases.

These may seem like issues that can only be solved by time, but dental insurance can help to address them. Dental insurance:

  • Assists employees in understanding the care they need by making diagnostic and preventive care available at no cost or low-cost
  • Reduces employees’ out-of-pocket costs with contracted rates at in-network dentists and cost sharing
  • Helps to bridge language and experience gaps with written material in multiple languages and in-person interpretation

How can I support my AAPI employees?

When it comes to supporting AAPI employees, actions are more important than words. Offer resources that help them get the care they need and alert them to the existence of these resources. If employees are unfamiliar with insurance or dental care systems, they may not know what they need!

If you have a large population of AAPI employees with limited English proficiency, consider providing materials (such as benefits highlight sheets) in their native languages to help them understand their coverage. Delta Dental can provide translations of these essential documents for you to distribute. Just talk to your account manager.

What resources does Delta Dental offer to its AAPI members?

Language barriers can be a major impediment to effectively communicating with a dentist and getting needed care. Approximately 77% of AAPI families speak non-English languages at home. The most common AAPI languages in the United States are:

  • Chinese
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Hindi and Urdu

Delta Dental offers resources and tools to all of its members that may be especially useful to your AAPI employees and their families, including:

  • The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that employees can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person interpreter when given 72 hours’ notice.
  • The Find a Dentist tool. Employees can use Delta Dental’s online directory to locate dentists who fit their specific needs. They can search by distance and specialty or search by languages spoken (such as Chinese or Tagalog) and accessibility features.

May is AAPI Heritage Month, but there’s no bad time for considering your employee’s dental care needs. Offering quality benefits like dental insurance is a great way to support the health of your AAPI employees, their families and everyone else on your staff, too.

You can now pair VSP vision coverage with your Small Business Program plan

Insurance coverage can be complicated, but Delta Dental is making it simpler. You can now get Delta Dental’s Small Business Program (SBP) dental plans and VSP® vision plans together. That means industry-leading vision and dental coverage are now available conveniently paired together with a single itemized invoice.

These new vision plans feature comprehensive coverage on VSP’s nationwide network. They’re available in the same three-level structure as SBP dental plans (Deluxe, Advantage and Core), so you don’t have to worry about learning a new system and explaining it to your employees. Benefits vary by level, but every vision plan includes:

  • Coverage for an annual eye exam and lenses
  • A frame or contact lens allowance (contact lenses are available in place of lenses and frames)
  • Access to VSP’s nationwide network

When you pair VSP vision coverage with a Delta Dental SBP plan administered by Allied Administrators, you make billing simpler for you and getting care simpler for your employees. If you want to learn more or get a quote, visit our Sales Contact page. It’s easy to see that’s a win-win.

Vision coverage is provided by VSP.

©2021 Vision Service Plan. All rights reserved.

VSP is a registered trademark of Vision Service Plan.

Delta Dental’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation renewed

Delta Dental Insurance Company’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation has been renewed through March 2024.

“Achieving NCQA Credentialing Accreditation demonstrates that Delta Dental Insurance Company has the systems, process and personnel in place to conduct credentialing in accordance with the strictest quality standards,” said Margaret E. O’Kane, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. NCQA’s Credentialing Accreditation is a quality assessment program that focuses on consumer protection and customer service improvement.

NCQA has reviewed and accredited Delta Dental Insurance Company’s Credentialing functions only. For complete details on the scope of this review, visit www.ncqa.org.

How the stress of the pandemic could be affecting your employees’ dental health

For many, 2020 ushered in feelings of isolation and fear, as well as new concerns about financial stability, safety, family and how to juggle all of it from home. For some dentists, the stress of the situation has become apparent in their patients’ oral health. Chances are, it could be affecting your employees, as well.

As of March, over 70% of dentists surveyed by the American Dental Association (ADA) Healthy Policy Institute reported an increase in patients experiencing teeth grinding and clenching since before the pandemic. That number is up nearly 10% from fall of 2020. In fact, more than 80% of Americans have reported emotions associated with prolonged stress, according to a January study by the American Psychological Association (APA).

“Generally, manifestations of stress go away when the stressing event goes away. That’s where the pandemic comes in,” said Dr. Daniel Croley, DMD, chief dental officer for Delta Dental. “One of the ways that some people manifest stress is by clenching and grinding their teeth.”

But dental conditions related to stress go beyond just teeth grinding.

Stress-related conditions

Multiple studies have shown that emotions can play a significant role in periodontal (gum) disease. Thanks to an increase in inflammation from stress-induced conditions, the gums can become a hotbed for bacteria, leading to gingivitis. According to the ADA, dentists reported recent upticks in all of the following conditions:

  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)
  • Chipped teeth
  • Cracked teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) symptoms
  • Cavities
  • Gum disease
  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Mouth sores

Delta Dental claim data also suggests a rise in stress-related conditions. Bite guards, commonly associated with treatment for bruxism and TMJ, were prescribed 14.3% more by Delta Dental dentists in the second half of 2020 than during that same period in 2019.

Sleep and ergonomics

During the mad rush to convert homes to offices in the early days of the pandemic, couches and stools took the place of lumbar-supported work chairs. Ergonomic workspaces became less of a priority than merely having a functioning workspace and the resulting poor posture may also be to blame for some TMJ issues. Whether your staff is at home or back in the office, it may be time to brush up on proper ergonomics for their workstation.

Likewise, stress and disrupted routines likely hurt the chances at restorative sleep, increasing nighttime teeth grinding. Insomnia and restlessness can result in bruxism and TMJ. Restful off-hours are critical for productive workdays, so consider sharing resources for mindfulness and healthy nighttime routines with your team.

Mask mouth

On top of these stress-induced issues is yet another pandemic problem: mask mouth. The facemask has been a staple of pandemic life and has greatly contributed to the slowing of the virus but can come with unfortunate byproducts: bad breath, dry mouth and even gingivitis and tooth decay.

Dental professionals attribute mask mouth to dehydration and mouth breathing when wearing a face covering. Though the ADA found no substantial rise in these specific indicators, the symptoms are easy to prevent by brushing thoroughly and drinking enough water. If your staff wears masks throughout their workday, it may be helpful to lay out guidelines for when they can remove them to stay hydrated.

Other reasons for the spike

It is important to note that not all of these conditions are caused solely by anxiety and tension. For instance, a broken tooth could come as the result of anxiety-induced teeth-grinding, but it could also be caused by an accident or prolonged dental problems. Unfortunately, most claim data does not include the cause behind the diagnosis. Without that, it is impossible to say with absolute certainty that stress is the sole reason for a spike in numbers.

“It’s logical to conclude that current stress is leading to those broken and chipped teeth,” Dr. Croley said. “We will monitor and see. As we see broader distribution of the COVID vaccine and our daily lives feel more typical of what we experienced pre-pandemic, we will see our stress subside and as a result the need for bite guards to treat grinding and clenching subside — but our bodies can take some time to re-acclimate. Going back to the typical is still a change from what has been our weird ‘normal’ over the past year and any change can generate stress.”

Educate your employees about how mental health can affect their oral health when signs of stress are detected. Sharing resources on recognizing and managing stress is a great way of letting your staff know that you’re empathetic to their situation and care about their health.

Dental care for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees

Happy National Deaf History Month! If you haven’t heard of this awareness month, it runs from March 13 to April 15. Nearly 15% of adult Americans report trouble hearing, so you likely have some employees among your staff with hearing issues. They may not even be aware of it!

Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals face some unique challenges when it comes to getting dental care. Even making an appointment can be difficult. Fortunately, there are solutions available to ensure that no problem is insurmountable. Here are some of the common issues that deaf and hard of hearing employees may encounter and what tools are available to help solve them.

Challenges and considerations

The challenges that employees who are hard of hearing face when it comes to getting quality dental care can begin before they ever set foot in the office.

  • Employees may have difficulty just making appointments. Not every office will have someone fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) on staff, but if an office isn’t set up to schedule appointments by text or email, it can be impossible for the hard-of-hearing to even step foot inside.
  • Dentists that don’t speak clearly, slowly and while looking at employees make it hard to read lips. The deaf and hard-of-hearing may rely more on lip-reading than others. Seeing a dentist who is in a hurry or who talks while moving all about the practice can make it more difficult for the deaf and hard-of-hearing to follow what’s being said. To make things even harder, the fact that everyone is wearing masks because of COVID-19 only compounds this issue.
  • Employees may not even realize that they’re hard-of-hearing. Because most everyone loses some of their hearing as they get older, the change can happen so gradually that the employee isn’t even aware of it. Younger employees can also develop hearing loss if they work in a loud environment or regularly attend loud events without proper hearing protection. For this reason, an attentive dentist who notices when their patients seem to have difficulty hearing them or following a conversation can be indispensable.

Solutions and tools

Whether employees have recently become hard of hearing or have been deaf since birth, there are two major tools available to help them.

  • The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that Delta Dental members can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person translator when given 72 hours’ notice. Most importantly for employees who are deaf, this means that they can have an interpreter fluent in ASL accompany them to their dental visits!
  • The Find a Dentist search tool. The Find a Dentist search tool is perfect for employees looking to find an in-network dentist that fits their specific needs. Employees can search by distance and specialty, but they can also search for dentists by the languages their offices support, such as ASL, and available accessibility features.

More than 35 million people in the United States report having trouble hearing, whether they suffer from mild hearing loss or are completely deaf. Fortunately, valuable services like the Language Assistance Program and thoughtful features like the Find a Dentist search tool make it easier for hard-of-hearing employees to get their dental needs taken care of.

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