Word of Mouth

Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

The surprising connection between oral health and diabetes

Perhaps more so than any other chronic condition, diabetes is connected to poor oral health. Worse, it’s a two-way street, because not only can diabetes worsen oral health, there’s also evidence that poor oral health can worsen diabetes.

Chances are, at least one of your employees is affected by the disease. Currently, more than 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and as many as one in three American adults has prediabetes.

Diabetes can not only affect the health of your employees but also the health of your company. Medical costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as they are for people without the disease, and these medical costs, combined with the cost lost work and wages, total more than $325 billion annually. And as an added risk, having type 2 diabetes, and possibly type 1 or gestational diabetes, increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

So how are diabetes and oral health linked, anyway?

People with diabetes are more susceptible to a number of serious oral health problems. For instance, diabetes can increase the sugar in saliva, which feeds the bacteria that cause tooth decay and cavities. Ironically, it may also decrease the saliva in the mouth, which can lead to cavities.

Gum disease is also a risk because diabetes reduces the body’s ability to fight oral infections and heal. Bacteria in infected gums can lead to bad breath, bleeding and swelling in the gums, mouth pain, and eventually loose teeth or tooth loss. It should also be noted that people with diabetes who smoke have a greatly increased risk of gum disease.

On the flip side, gum disease may affect blood sugar levels, which can worsen diabetes and make it harder to control.

And there’s another issue…

And that’s many people aren’t even aware they have diabetes. The CDC estimates that as many as 20% of the people who have the disease are unaware they have it, and that number leaps to 84% for people who have prediabetes.

Oral symptoms of diabetes to watch for include dry mouth, bad breath, a burning sensation in the mouth (also known as burning mouth syndrome or BMS), a reduced or altered sense of taste, oral yeast infections, new or worsening gum disease and oral infections that are slow to heal.

So, what can I do?

To help your employees maintain their oral and overall health, here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Ask employees to watch for the symptoms of untreated diabetes. Post the possible symptoms on your company’s website or social media feed, or consider blasting an informational email to employees.
  • Provide employees with oral health tips. Tips could include brushing for two to three minutes twice each day with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing daily, and eating a diet rich in mouth-friendly nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium. And be sure to take advantage of Delta Dental’s wellness content. For November, we’re offering a collection of diabetes-themed oral health emails, flyers and articles that are perfect for educating your employees.
  • Remind employees to use their dental benefits. Not surprisingly, people who have dental benefits are more likely to visit the dentist than people without them. But they’re also more likely take their children to the dentist and have better overall health than people without dental benefits, according to a National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) report.
  • Suggest that employees schedule regular diagnostic oral exams. Regular oral exams can help detect early signs of diabetes and well as other diseases.
  • If you don’t already, consider offering SmileWay® Wellness Benefits as a part of your employees’ dental package. Available for Delta Dental PPO™ plans, SmileWay Wellness Benefits provide employees with chronic health conditions such as diabetes with additional annual cleanings and gum treatments that help treat oral issues associated with the disease.

Teeth filing a dangerous trend for teens

A troubling trend has emerged on social media during the coronavirus outbreak: DIY teeth filing with household items such as nail files.

In June 2020, a 19-year-old TikTok user named Mia Dio posted a video of herself filing her teeth with a nail file. The video went viral. After being watched nearly a half million times, numerous TikTok videos have been posted showing young people filing their teeth.

Wait, what? Why would anyone do this?

In the video, Dio explains that she wants to remove imperfections in her teeth, but doesn’t want to spend the money for a professional procedure, such as an enameloplasty.

“We’re ballin’ on a budget!” she said.

Later in a Washington Post interview, Dio also said that she was reluctant to visit a dental during the current coronavirus pandemic. The TikTok videos also imply some confusion about the nature of tooth enamel which, unlike nails and hair, doesn’t regenerate.

Filing teeth can destroy tooth enamel, cause temperature sensitivity or injure teeth, which can result in costly dental procedures or even extraction.

Yikes! So what can I do about this?

Many dental professionals have taken proactive steps to ensure their patients and their families don’t try this. Some have decided to fight fire with fire by posting their own TikTok videos warning people about the danger of the practice.

To spread the word to your employees, steps you might consider include the following:

  • Send an email to your employees that explains this trend and warns them about the dangers. This may be especially effective for the parents of teens, who may not be aware of what their children watch on social media.
  • Post information on your company’s website, Facebook page or social media feed about the danger of this fad and safe alternatives.
  • Suggest safe alternatives for imperfect smiles that may be available through your company’s dental policy, such as cleanings, orthodontics, cosmetic procedures and professional teeth whitening.
  • Remind your employees that they can safely visit the dentist during the pandemic for any procedure they might need

However you choose to discuss it, ensure that your employees and their children understand that filing their own teeth is a terrible idea. And that the resulting damage can take a real bite out of their wallet.

As Dio said later in the Post interview, after she was explained what the risks were, “I probably would have thought twice about it.”

Why dental insurance matters for employees

Open enrollment season is here, and that means it’s time for employees to review their benefits and choose their insurance plans for next year. Most people probably think of medical insurance first, but your employees shouldn’t forget about dental insurance, either.

The value of dental insurance may not be immediately obvious to your employees, but dental insurance is always an important part of any benefits package. Any dental plan that emphasizes diagnostic and preventive care can go a long way towards keeping employees happy and healthy, and additional coverage can make a big difference when major services are required.

Here are three ways you can show them how having dental insurance helps protect employees’ health, happiness and pocketbooks.

1. It keeps employees healthy, and that matters during a pandemic.

People who have dental insurance are more likely to go to the dentist than those without coverage. One of the most valuable benefits of dental insurance is having access to regular diagnostic and preventive care in the form of x‑rays and examinations. In addition to keeping employees’ smiles bright and healthy, these services can also help identify major diseases that have oral symptoms, such as diabetes and kidney disease.

Additionally, poor oral health can have negative effects on overall health. Poor oral health is linked to conditions like heart disease and pneumonia. It’s worth considering that many pre-existing conditions can be risk factors for COVID-19, so staying on top of oral health is especially important for preventing new issues and managing existing ones.

2. It helps keep employees’ morale up, and that means a lot when people are worried about the future.

Americans are feeling pessimistic about the future, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. It makes sense that more people would feel anxious and concerned when COVID-19 is still making news and the economy remain unsteady: People are worried about their personal and financial well-being.

The sense of safety and security that comes from having insurance can help alleviate some of these fears. Over 90% of employees rate health care benefits as important. According to Milbank Quarterly, employees want insurance “in order to protect against the catastrophic costs of serious illness and to ensure access to medical care” for themselves and their families. The coverage that comes from an employer, especially if it comes at a discounted group rate, can help employees to feel at easy during the fear and uncertainty of our present time.

3. It saves your employees money, and that’s always important.

One of the biggest financial advantages of having dental coverage is that it helps to cover the cost of major dental care. People without insurance tend to experience greater variability in dental costs than those with insurance. Major procedures like root canals and crowns are usually more expensive than simpler ones like cleanings and fillings, but Delta Dental helps to keep out-of-pocket costs down.

Having dental insurance means employees will enjoy increased savings in the form of:

  • Diagnostic and preventive care covered at low or no cost
  • Lower costs for expensive procedures (since the cost is shared by the plan)
  • Discounted fees at in-network dentists

Going to dentists within the Delta Dental network also means that your employees will have safeguards and guarantees in place to ensure that they’re getting both great value and great service. When your employees need major care or have issues with their dentists, a Delta Dental plan can mean the difference between simple predictable costs and unpleasant surprise bills.

This open enrollment season, don’t forget to show your employees how dental insurance is an important part of their benefits package. Help employees make decisions that will let them save money and stay healthy.

When life happens, there’s Smile On

As a benefits administrator, you know that people’s life circumstances can change at the drop of a hat. Most people get their insurance coverage through work, but what happens when they retire, lose their job or take a break from work? That’s when the Smile On program is there for them.

Smile On is a program designed to help employees with group benefits transition to individual plans. With this program, your employees don’t have to worry about losing dental insurance when their employer-offered coverage ends.

Smile On helps your employees stay covered

Retiring, being in between jobs, or being a contractor or part-timer shouldn’t mean going without dental coverage. That’s why Delta Dental offers the Smile On program.

Smile On offers an easy way to connect your employees with existing individual plans. Smile On plans are new coverage and not a continuation of plans your employees may currently have, but they still provide the essential coverage that helps your employees stay healthy and save money on dental costs. They’ll enjoy the peace of mind knowing that what’s important is covered.

Best of all, getting a plan is something that employees can handle all on their own. They just need to visit the Smile On page, get a quote and choose from the plans available in their ZIP code.

Smile On is easy to promote

You won’t be going it alone when you present Smile On to your employees. There’s a flyer you can use help them understand all that the program offers.

Remember, when your employees need coverage the most, Smile On helps you meet their needs.

What lasting effects will COVID-19 have on the workplace?

COVID-19 has brought about seismic shifts in most aspects of American life. Saying with certainty what the future will bring is impossible, but these four major trends are likely to shape how companies do business.

More remote working than pre-COVID

Working from home has become the new normal for 42% of the American workforce, according to a study from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.  Despite its challenges, an increasing number of workers have developed a preference for work-from-home arrangements.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 5% of working days were spent from home. That number currently stands at 40% and is expected to drop to 20% post-pandemic. The two most common responses to the question “[After COVID-19] how often would you like to have paid work days at home?” were “5 days a week and “never.”

For that reason, we anticipate that most employers will seek to find a balance where they allow their workers to work remotely for one-to-three days each week and come into the office for meetings and collaborative work on the other days.

More tools and benefits that facilitate remote work

With more people working remotely, employers will do more to provide the tools and resources that those workers need to be productive. A survey by the global professional services firm Aon has found that 42% of companies around the globe are either already helping their employees pay for home office expenses or are planning to do so. This includes hardware such as keyboards, monitors and headsets; software such as productivity and creative suites; and stipends, such as a monthly internet stipend or a one-time grant to purchase home office equipment.

Because the line between personal and work life can blur when working from home, benefits such as stipends for and wellness may become more common as well. There could even be a shift away from more in-office and commute-based perks. After all, company-provided lunches and public transit stipends aren’t very useful to someone who is working from home, but a monthly stipend for health and wellness costs may be. Such a stipend could be used on everything from traditional health needs (such as doctors’ appointments and prescriptions) to mental health needs (such as counseling and therapy) to overall wellness (such as yoga and guided meditation apps.)

More part-time and contract workers

In the initial stages of an economic downturn, part-time and contract workers can be hit hard, as they tend to have fewer protections than full-time workers. The early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown were no exception, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finding that part-time workers accounted for one-third of the job losses in the initial stages of the pandemic despite being 20% of the workforce. However, this trend has begun to reverse as businesses have reopened with varying levels of success.

Economic uncertainty may lead to more roles for part-time and contract workers. Companies may be hesitant to bring on full-time employees out of fear of another downturn, and an unstable economy will lead workers to an increased willingness to take contract and part-time positions with fewer benefits.

Changes in business plans and organizational complexity

COVID-19 has laid bare many of the assumptions that undergirded common business thinking. For the past few decades, efficiency has been king. Businesses have tightened their supply chains, focused on reinvesting profits or paying out dividends rather than keep cash on hand, and generally strived to operate as leanly as possible. The disruptions to global supply chains and daily life caused by COVID-19 have demonstrated the need for resiliency in both business plans and organizational structures.

In the future, businesses may keep more cash on hand in order to help them weather unforeseen economic shocks. Some of the money that would be invested into research and development or payouts for investors may instead go towards reinforcing supply chains and building up reserves of essential equipment and material. After all, businesses have a financial obligation to their stakeholders, and that obligation can’t be met if the business doesn’t have the resources it needs to stay afloat.

Plan on adapting

Both small businesses and large corporations will have to plan for a post-pandemic future. The biggest lesson from COVID-19 is not that there is any single best practice, but rather that unforeseen events can cause massive disruptions across entire economies. Employers should keep in mind that illnesses, natural disasters, economic downturns and more are all possible, and they should have plans in place to deal with a major disruption.

How dentists fight opioid addiction

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.”

« Older posts

© 2020 Word of Mouth

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑