Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Category: Wellness (Page 1 of 3)

Understand the wellness connection. Stay on top of the latest research in the dental health world.

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.”

Grin! for Kids: value-added resource for dental plans

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.

Grin! offers employees a free and fun wellness resource

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
  • Fun features
  • 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.

See for yourself: Check out the latest edition of Grin! And it’s easy to subscribe. With just one click, you and your employees can receive all that Grin! has to offer, four times per year.

Healthy, happy employees are the key to a productive workplace, and Grin! can help. Why not get started today?

And if you do choose to subscribe to Grin!, be sure to download this free poster that you can use to promote this great resource to your employees.

Bacteria on the brain? Exploring the Alzheimer’s and oral health connection

2-minute read

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.

Oral health is just one piece of the puzzle

Alzheimer’s is linked to a host of risk factors, not just poor oral health. Genetics, heart health, diabetes, hypertension, exercise and diet may also play a role, just to name a few. Here’s the good news — by encouraging enrollees to prioritize oral health, you may also be helping improve their overall health! Send enrollees to our SmileWay® Wellness site for resources to protect their smiles and well-being for years to come.


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The surprising ways a smile keeps hearts pumping

2-minute read

No matter employees’ opinions about Valentine’s Day, the holiday gives you a chance to remind your workforce to take care of their hearts — both physically and emotionally. Promoting oral health is a great place to start. Check out the unexpected ways a healthy smile is linked to a healthy heart.

Physical impact: If the heart was an engine, how would it run?

Heart disease

Stronger evidence linking periodontal disease with heart disease continues to emerge. Although we can’t yet say the relationship between oral health and heart health is causal, new research suggests that even poor dental hygiene, such as infrequent tooth brushing, may be a risk factor for heart disease.

Hypertension

Hypertension can lead to a host of serious health threats, including heart attacks and heart failure. That’s why managing your blood pressure is so important for heart health. A new study found that those with healthy gums were less likely to have hypertension and responded better to hypertension treatment than those with gum disease. Food for thought.

Emotional impact: The mind thinks but the heart feels.

Relationships

It may be common knowledge that relationships — romantic or platonic — can hold an important place in one’s heart. But did you know that by encouraging good oral health among your workforce, you may also be helping to boost your employees’ relationships? It’s true! According to the 2017 Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA) Adult Oral Health & Well-Being Survey:

  • 74% of people say a smile can make or break a first impression
  • 69% of people say a person’s smile stays top of mind after meeting them
  • 76% of people are more attracted to people who show off their smiles often!

Self-love

Something as simple as a smile can affect everyone around us, including ourselves. In fact, nearly 60% of adults say good oral health makes them feel confident, according to the DDPA survey. Maybe that’s why adults committed to their oral health are more likely to describe themselves as happy and comfortable in their own skin. Adults who prioritize their oral health are also more likely to give their overall well-being an excellent rating.

For Valentine’s Day, and every day, help protect employees’ hearts with healthy smiles.  

With love,

Delta Dental


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