There’s no shortage of issues confronting the country and the world today. Alongside COVID-19 and climate change, the opioid epidemic remains a major issue in the United States. Fortunately, there are steps that dentists can take to do their part to help combat addiction and abuse.
One of the simplest but most effective steps dentists can take involves prescribing alternatives to narcotics. Studies have found that a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be a more effective pain management tool than simply prescribing opioids.
As Dr. Daniel Croley, our Vice President of Network Development, says, “We ask that all dentists consider non-addictive pain management as their first choice. When narcotics are needed, only prescribe the lowest dosage and quantity needed to effectively manage your patients’ pain.”
In honor of National Recovery Month, Delta Dental has launched an informational campaign to encourage dentists to educate themselves and their staff about the opioid epidemic. This includes letters sent directly to dentists, educational blog posts on the topic and new opioid-focused material in webinars.
We also encourage dentists to:
Stay on top of the latest developments in pain management
Talk openly and honestly with patients about their history before prescribing opioids
Follow ADA guidelines, which include education about opioids, limits on prescriptions, and drug monitoring
In the words of Dr. Croley, “Together, we can stop the overprescription and abuse of opioids.”
Educating families about dental care in creative ways gives them incentives to take advantage of Delta Dental plan benefits. The way to engage children in dental care is to give them opportunities to learn about taking care of the teeth, gums and mouth so that their smiles are healthy.
Grin! for Kids is a coloring and activity book with fun, educational projects for children in grades K-5. It is a valuable free resource that adds value to a Delta Dental plan. The book can be printed out at home for easy access, as parents show children about preventive care and explain how important it is.
Each issue of Grin! for Kids, available in English and Spanish, contains new ideas and information that your employees’ families can share as they maintain regular visits to their dentist under their plan.
Communicating with employees in a period of social distancing requires new approaches, and you can manage open enrollment with a solid plan. Since in-person meetings may not be feasible during the COVID-19 pandemic, take advantage of technology to make virtual presentations that are timely and effective.
You can start by planning a virtual benefits fair. This may include medical and dental plan options or you can expand it to a general wellness event. Keeping in mind the value of an in-person session, give your employees handouts or videos that they can view online. The fair can provide information on dental plan coverage and premiums, along with instructions for enrollment for new employees and options for making changes for current enrollees.
Scheduling a video conference meeting with employees is an effective way to connect in real time to explain plan options, answer questions and provide resources. Recording the live session gives employees the opportunity to view information at their convenience.
You can also make recorded sessions or videos available via mobile app so employees can access them on their smartphones.
Throughout open enrollment, you can stay in touch through a blog, FAQ page and opportunities for employees to have online chats with benefits administrators. Rest assured, your benefits plan communications can be effectively delivered virtually, with the added value of safety.
Encourage your employees to brighten their smiles — and their days — with Delta Dental’s fun, informative and free e-magazine: Grin!
Available in English and Spanish, this quarterly publication is full of useful and entertaining content, such as:
The latest news on dental care — including what to do during the coronavirus pandemic
Advice from experts
First looks at innovative technology
Healthy recipes, and more
And because your employees’ dental health is strongly tied to their overall health, Grin! also explores how many chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and depression, are related to dental care. In fact, you can learn how allergies and oral health are related in the recent summer issue.
Volunteering can also give your employees a sense of purpose and appreciation, strengthen relationships and even encourage exercise — all great ways to lower stress. One study even found that people who volunteered for at least 200 hours in a 12-month span were less likely to develop high blood pressure (a common symptom of stress) than non-volunteers.
If your company offers a volunteer time off (VTO) benefit, you can organize events and activities that encourage employees to attend together. If VTO isn’t an option, you can share local volunteer events with employees that happen outside of work hours. Bonus points for including volunteer events with dogs (keep reading to see why)!
Fight stress with fitness.
Exercise is a stress triple threat. Why?
Increased happiness: Exercise boosts the body’s natural production of endorphins. This perky chemical has been proven to boost happiness.
Positive outlook: Concentrating on your body’s movements — like achieving that perfect push-up form — helps shift focus from life’s stressors to a calm, more positive energy.
To get employees moving, try organizing an intramural-style team sport or sponsoring a race for your company. If you’re not sure what types of activities your employees might enjoy, send out a survey to find out.
Laugh it off! (And no, we don’t mean ignore it.)
Stress is no laughing matter. Or, is it? Are you familiar with the phrase, “laughter is the best medicine?” When it comes to fighting stress, laughter may be an effective remedy. Studies show that laughter can relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress by stimulating circulation and muscle relaxation. Over time, “positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses,” according to Mayo Clinic.
Don’t worry — there’s no need to host a daily comedy hour at the office. But taking a moment to share a funny story or keeping a joke book on hand may be a good idea. To really get the workplace rolling, why not try a group outing to a laughing yoga class? In addition to getting the giggles, you get a wonderful opportunity to encourage employee bonding and create endorphins.
Create a serene space.
Is there a big deadline coming up? Holding a wellness fair soon? Consider contacting a local pet therapy organization that can bring in dogs to interact with employees. Multiple studies suggest that dogs can lower our stress levels — oftentimes even more than a supportive friend according to new research. Plus, dogs can help fulfill our longing for human touch, which can boost dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin (aka our feel good hormones).
Let’s start with color. For centuries, people across the globe have believed that certain colors can affect mood. In 2003, a Minnesota State University study actually found that subjects placed in a red room gave higher stress ratings than subjects placed in green and white rooms. Why not pick up a paint brush or add some calming accents of green and white to your office space?
Beyond color, research continues to show that exposure to nature can alter mood. A 2018 study even suggests that just visiting a natural environment can reduce stress levels. If your office is in a natural setting, encourage employees to get out and enjoy it during breaks. If a concrete jungle is your landscape, consider organizing nature walks for employees at a nearby park. Adding plants and nature-inspired artwork may also help!
Send in the dogs.
Not only can these furry visitors perk up your workplace,
but they can also help employees feel more comfortable connecting with each
Check stress levels and offer support.
With the rise of telecommuting, face-to-face interaction with employees might not be as regular as it was in the past. However, that doesn’t mean we should be less connected! Sometimes just acknowledging employee stress can provide relief. Remind managers to check in on employees’ stress levels regularly, not just when there’s a big project on the line.
In addition to using the stress-busting strategies in this article, encourage managers to stay current on the types of services your company offers to help cope with stress. And, if it seems like employees are feeling more than situational stress, it may be time for them to seek professional help.
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By now, you’ve probably seen the recent headlines
highlighting a possible link between Alzheimer’s disease and poor oral health. You
may be getting questions from enrollees, or even thinking about how this
information could impact your own family.
Alzheimer’s affects nearly 5 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. — so it’s no wonder that the potential dental connection is raising concerns. However, before your enrollees start panicking, and feverishly reaching for their toothbrushes, it’s important to set a few things straight about the research.
New evidence, but not a new idea
The potential link between Alzheimer’s and poor oral health is not a new discovery. In 2008, periodontal (gum) disease was already identified as a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Since then, the body of evidence supporting the link has only grown. A group of researchers identified P. gingivalis as the specific kind of oral bacteria associated with Alzheimer’s in 2013. Subsequent studies have found that this same type of bacteria, often the culprit for gum disease, can transfer from the mouth to the brain in mice. Once P. gingivalis enters the brain, it can create the characteristic symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
The latest study making waves further explores the role of P. gingivalis in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s. Researchers looked at brain tissue, saliva and spinal fluid from Alzheimer’s patients, and not only found evidence of P. gingivalis, but they also discovered the presence of a toxic enzyme created by P. gingivalis in 96% of the brain tissue samples examined. Once in the brain, this toxic enzyme can destroy brain neurons, a hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s.
Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation
While the new study adds to the evidence that gum disease is associated with Alzheimer’s risk, not everyone who has Alzheimer’s has gum disease, and not everyone who has gum disease has Alzheimer’s. Additional research is needed to understand if and how a cause and effect relationship exists. While more needs to be learned, it’s still important to encourage enrollees to prevent and manage gum disease, especially in older adults or individuals who have increased risk for dementia.