Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: employee health (Page 1 of 4)

Why poor oral health can be a headache

Sometimes, your oral heath can be enough to give you a headache ― literally. Oral health has been linked to a number of painful conditions that affect the head and neck, including headaches and even migraines.

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, so what better time to learn about how oral health and head, neck and jaw pain are related? Here are some of the main culprits and some steps you can take to protect your employees.

What are dental conditions that might cause headaches?

Bruxism

Bruxism is a fancy word for teeth grinding. Grinding or clenching your teeth can lead to chronic conditions such as headaches, jaw pain and sensitive teeth. Over time, bruxism can seriously damage your tooth enamel and even cause your jaw to move out of proper alignment.

TMJ

Temporomandibular disorder, also known as TMJ, refers to a variety of conditions that affect TM joints, jaw muscles and facial nerves. TMJ may occur when the jaw twists during opening, closing or side-motion movements. TMJ can cause headaches as well as neck aches.

Dental infections and bacteria

Not surprisingly, cavities and infections can also lead to headaches. What might be more surprising is that bacteria in your mouth may lead to migraines.

Certain oral bacteria can cause nitrates in food to produce nitric acids, which causes blood vessels to dilate and blood flow to increase. This in turn can trigger headaches, including migraines. Researchers have found that people who suffer from migraines have a higher concentration of these bacteria in their mouths than people who don’t.

How can I protect my employees from headaches?

Encourage good oral hygiene

Good old-fashioned brushing and flossing is the best way to prevent cavities and rid your mouth of the harmful bacteria that can contribute to migraines.

Encourage your employees to brush and floss during work, particularly after lunch. Another simple way help employees is to let them know about the surprising benefits chewing gum sweetened with xylitol, which can actually reduce decay-causing oral bacteria.

Finally, don’t forget to let employees know about BrushSmart™, a free oral wellness program available to all Delta Dental members, designed to help improve oral care at home. By signing up, your employees can access special offers from popular oral health care brands.

Promote preventive care

Exams and cleanings help keep teeth healthy, reduce the bacteria that can cause migraines and prevent decay that can lead to headaches. An added bonus is that during an exam, the dentist can also look for other causes of headaches, such as bruxism, jaw misalignment or TMJ. The dentist can then suggest treatments, such as orthodontics or even oral surgery.

If you haven’t, consider adding the D&P Maximum Waiver® to your plan. Diagnostic and preventive care procedures won’t count against your plan’s annual maximums, which encourages your employees to take advantage of these services ― and may help them avoid costly procedures down the line.

A healthy diet can help, too!

Help your employees find ways to improve their diet. A diet low in refined sugar helps prevent decay and migraine-causing bacteria. Avoiding foods high in nitrates like processed meats can also help employees avoid migraines, and drinking fluoridated water helps to strengthen teeth and wash away harmful bacteria.

Consider offering healthy snacks in your office vending machine and suggesting healthy, teeth-friendly recipes.

Help reduce stress

Stress contributes to oral conditions such as bruxism and TMJ, both of which are common causes of headaches. And stress eating unhealthy food high in sugar and nitrates can not only harm teeth and gums, but they can also trigger migraines.

To help, provide employees with strategies for reducing their stress, including exercise programs, mediation and even repainting common spaces in soothing colors!

These are just a few of the ways to help ensure your employees remain healthy, happy and most importantly, headache free. For more ideas and information, share the wellness resources Delta Dental offers for National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month.

Is work hurting your employees’ teeth?

When you think of risk factors for poor dental health, what comes to mind? Maybe infrequent brushing, eating too much candy or avoiding the dentist come to mind.

There’s another factor you may not have thought of: work. Various aspects of work life, from simple stress to physical labor, can contribute to poor oral health. Learn about risk factors associated with the workplace and how your employees can protect their oral health at work.

Dehydration

Did you know that dehydration can lead to bad breath, tooth decay and even gum disease? This is because dry mouth, a symptom of dehydration, allows harmful bacteria and acids to stay on our teeth.

Up to 80% of American workers are likely to work while at least slightly dehydrated. That’s not a good situation for your employees’ oral health. Employees are particularly at risk if they work outside or do strenuous labor, but even desk workers should take care to consume enough water and electrolytes. Water also rinses away harmful sugars, starches and acids, helps combat dry mouth and may provide a dose of protective fluoride.

Hydration is so important that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers provide free potable water to all employees either through drinking fountains, tap water, water coolers or water bottles!

What you can do:  Depending on your work environment, you may require or strongly encourage that employees take short water breaks at regular intervals. You could also provide reusable water bottles or post reminders about why hydration is important.

Snacking

In some workplaces, it’s policy to provide free snacks and drinks in the breakroom. In others, a few workers simply leave out bowls of for everyone to snack from. Regardless of where they come from, sugary snacks and caffeinated drinks are a staple of a lot of office workers’ diets.

But snacks are tough on your employees’ teeth. Some of the main offenders include sticky candies and chips.

What you can do: If your office provides snacks, consider including healthy, teeth-friendly alternatives if you can. You could also share articles about nutrition and oral health to help employees make healthier, informed choices.

Stress and anxiety

Projects, quotas and delivery deadlines means that work can definitely be a source of some major stress in your employees’ lives. Unsurprisingly, job stress and anxiety can lead to indulging in some unhealthy habits, such as teeth grinding, jaw clenching, nail biting, chewing on pens and pencils or binge snacking, all of which can lead to tooth damage, gum disease and canker sores.

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can even lead to longer term issues, like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

What you can do: On a large scale, you can encourage mental well-being through initiatives like subsidizing gym memberships or offering employee assistance programs. Some employee stress is a result of their bosses. You can tackle this by providing leadership training or personal development and taking conflicts between managers and employees seriously.

Smoking and vaping

Whether your practice offers additional breaks to smokers or your employees find a quick smoke the best way to release stress, smoking is never a good idea. Not only is smoking one of the top risk factors for oral cancer, it can also lead to bad breath, gum disease and cavities. And while it doesn’t involve tobacco, the vapor from e‑cigarettes contains nicotine — which can lead to gum disease and tooth loss — along with other chemicals that can harm your teeth.

What you can do: The American Lung Association of Ohio, Ohio Department of Health, and Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation developed a model for a tobacco-free workplace policy that you can begin to implement. Both the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer free resources to help smokers quit.

Dental injuries

Whether from a fall, a misuse of equipment or a simple accident, dental injuries can pose a threat to everyone. Work-related dental injuries include chipped or cracked teeth, tooth loss and jaw trauma leading to temporomandibular disorders (TMJ).

In particular, issues with waiting to treat dental injuries can result in worse outcomes. If someone cracks a tooth, the American Dental Association recommends that they see a dentist as soon as possible. Immediate treatment for the injury should be rinsing the mouth with warm water to clean the area. They can also put cold compresses on their face to reduce any swelling.

What you can do: Create a policy that encourages employees to seek immediate medical attention for any potential injury, even if they feel it isn’t a big deal. Take into consideration what might discourage seeking treatment (finances, transportation, childcare or something else) and develop a plan to address each sticking point.


While work creates certain hazards for employees’ dental health, awareness can make a big difference. Sharing resources like the Delta Dental Wellness library can empower your employees to make more informed choices. Evaluate your dental benefits to and tailor them to address your employees’ risk factors.

Healthy mouth, healthy mind

Could flossing every day help prevent depression? Does having anxiety increase the risk for developing gum disease?

The relationship between mental health and oral health is a cyclical one. More and more research is revealing that keeping a healthy mouth is an important part of keeping a healthy mind, and vice versa. People with mental health issues are less likely to take proper care of their oral health, and conversely, good oral health can enhance mental and overall well-being.

For Mental Health Awareness Month this May, take some time to remind your employees of the often-overlooked relationship between dental hygiene and mental health. You can use Delta Dental resources to help them understand that caring for their oral health is a central part of caring for their mental health.

The relationship between the mouth and the mind

Oral health and mental health are more closely linked than many people realize. Mental health issues can cause people to brush and floss at irregular intervals, skip dentist visits, maintain unhealthy diets and self-medicate with smoking or drug use, resulting in gum disease and tooth decay.

Some of the mental illnesses that can negatively impact oral health include:

  • Anxiety. Anxiety and dental phobia can stop people from seeing their dentist regularly, which can harm their oral health. In addition, medications prescribed for anxiety can cause dry mouth. Without saliva to rinse away food debris, plaque and bacteria, cavities can form more easily.
  • Depression. Depression is associated with higher abuse of alcohol, coffee and tobacco, all of which can cause tooth erosion and decay. Depression can also lead to self-neglect, which results in poor oral hygiene.
  • Eating disorders. Acids from vomiting make patients with eating disorders more susceptible to tooth decay.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder. The condition often causes over-brushing that may damage gums and cause dental abrasion, mucosal lacerations or gingival lacerations.
  • Schizophrenia and psychosis. These serious mental health conditions can cause people to forego dental care, eat poorly and neglect oral hygiene. Side effects of antipsychotic and mood stabilizer drugs may include a higher susceptibility to oral bacterial infections.

Certain mental health conditions can exacerbate poor oral health, and the converse is often also true: Poor oral health can make mental health issues worse. Oral health problems can lead to more frequent pain experience, social isolation and low self-esteem, reducing quality of life and in turn diminishing mental well-being.

A recent study even showed a strong association between chronic gingivitis and subsequent depression. More research is needed to fully understand the connection, but it highlights that maintaining oral health is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy and happy life.

Helping your employees maintain their mental health and oral health

No matter what issues your employees are facing, it’s important to remind them to keep up with routine oral health care and dental visits. Encourage employees to maintain healthy habits like cutting back on sugar, reducing stress, eating a balanced diet and quitting smoking. Staying hydrated, exercising and maintaining a good social support system are also crucial to maintaining mental health through difficult times.

The following resources can help you remind employees to care for their oral health while maintaining their mental well-being. With Delta Dental resources, you can:

Mental health affects the health of the entire body, including oral health. It’s an important link that unfortunately, many people don’t understand. For Mental Health Awareness Month, remind your employees that there is no mental health without oral health.

How stress affects your employees’ oral health

Every day, your employees face challenges that can be stressful and overwhelming, but the pandemic, inflation and war have all helped to push U.S. stress levels to record levels. As stress increases, so do oral health problems. For National Stress Awareness Month this April, learn why your employees may be at risk and what you can do to help.

Pandemic stress and oral health

Unfortunately, due to stress from COVID-19, dentists have seen a sharp rise in stress-related oral health conditions, according to a report from the American Dental Association (ADA). Dentists reported:

  • A 71% increase in the prevalence of teeth grinding and clenching
  • A 63% increase for chipped teeth
  • A 63% increase for cracked teeth

Even as some of the most challenging, isolating and stressful aspects of the pandemic seem to be coming to an end, money problems, inflation and war have pushed stress in the U.S. to alarming levels, according to the American Psychological Association.

Stress-related oral health conditions

It’s crucial to remind your employees to look after their oral health during times of high stress because they may be unaware that they’re developing stress-related oral health conditions.

Teeth grinding

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, occurs when teeth are clenched and ground together, and it’s frequently caused by stress and anxiety. What’s more: teeth grinding often happens at night during sleep, so your employees may be entirely unaware they have the condition.

It’s important for employees to know the signs and to seek treatment if they suspect they may be grinding their teeth. Signs include:

  • Tips of the teeth appear flat
  • Tooth sensitivity caused by worn enamel
  • Indentations in the tongue

Dentists can examine your employees’ teeth to determine whether they may be grinding their teeth at night and, if so, how best to treat it.

Gum disease

Stress can deplete the immune system, the body’s natural defense mechanism against disease and infection. And when the immune system is weakened by stress, harmful bacteria in the mouth seize the opportunity to wreak havoc on the gums. Furthermore, research shows that the systemic diseases associated with gum disease such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease may share stress as a common risk factor.

When your employees are stressed, they should take extra care of their gums by flossing and maintaining a solid dental hygiene routine. If their gums bleed when they floss or brush, they should visit the dentist right away.

Tooth decay

Stress and tooth decay often go hand in hand. People tend to make poor choices regarding their health during times of stress, eating comforting but unhealthy foods full of starch and sugar. They pay less attention to their normal hygiene routines, forgoing regular brushing and flossing if they feel stressed or depressed. Your employees who take medications for chronic stress may be at an even greater risk due to dry mouth, which is often a side effect of such medications. Altogether, these issues can shape the perfect storm leading to more cavities during times of stress.

How to help your employees

The best way to reduce stress is to remove its source. Of course, in many cases, that’s simply not possible. Counseling, exercise, relaxation, physical therapy or meditation may all help your employees manage stress during difficult times. If your company makes these resources available, use National Stress Awareness Month to remind your employees to use them.

But during times of stress, it’s equally important to remind your employees to take care of their oral health, to watch for stress-related oral health problems and to keep up with regular dentist visits.

The following resources from Delta Dental can help you raise awareness about stress-related oral conditions and keep your employees informed. With Delta Dental, you can:

Managing stress in the post-pandemic era

Many of your employees may be unaware of the crucial relationship between stress and oral health. During Stress Awareness Month, you can serve the crucial role of reminding employees to manage their stress, to watch for the signs of stress-related oral health conditions and to visit their dentist to help treat any stress-related oral health problems.

Get comprehensive utilization and health risk reports for your group

How do you know which dental benefits enrollees actually use and need? The true value of a dental benefit plan can depend on how much employees utilize their plan and which benefits they’re using. With Your Dental Health Summary, you can get these insights and more.

How are your employees using their dental benefits?

Your Dental Health Summary is a comprehensive report that helps you evaluate your enrolled employees’ utilization, oral health and risk status. The report highlights your group’s healthy behaviors and helps identify risk factors like the percentage of enrolled employees that had fillings, root canals or gum treatment. You can examine utilization and risk status indicators over time and compare your enrolled member population to benchmarks. Using this data, you can assess whether intervention, education or better patient habits could improve risk status.

What’s in the report?

When you open Your Dental Health Summary, you’ll see information about:

  • Your employees’ dental benefits utilization, including risk factors and healthy behaviors. See how your employees compare to benchmarks for taking advantage of diagnostic and preventive services. You can also review health indicators for employees at high risk for dental disease, with utilization patterns compared to benchmarks.
  • Your employees’ current oral health risk status compared to benchmarks. You’ll get risk categories for your entire group of enrolled employees, including new members, high-risk employees and employees with no dentist visits. You’ll also get a detailed breakdown of each category by age.
  • Your group’s oral health progress compared to previous years. Track the progress of your high-risk and low-risk employees and you’ll see whether your employees’ oral health has improved or declined and how many visited the dentist.

But what if you don’t know much about dental health? Your Dental Health Summary contains a guide to best practices for good oral health and how to support healthy habits. As you receive information about your employee’s plan usage, you’ll learn how to help high-risk employees and encourage dentist visits.

How do I get the report?

Your Dental Health Summary reports are available for groups with at least 500 primary enrollees. Because the reports track dental health trends over a period of several years, your group must have been effective with Delta Dental for at least two full years before you can receive your first report.

A report is generated each month but trends are tracked on an annual basis, so talk to your Sales Account Executive to discuss how often you’d like to receive the report. Reports are always delivered via email. Once you receive your report, Delta Dental’s team will also set up a meeting with you to walk you through the numbers, help you understand the data and answer any questions you have.


Making choices about your benefits package can be difficult when you don’t have a clear picture of how your employees are using it. With Your Dental Health Summary, you have a tool that gives you tailored and actionable information you can use to plan targeted, effective wellness initiatives for your group.

Updated wellness library offers a wealth of oral health info

Ensuring your employees are well-informed about their oral health is now easier than ever. Our newly redesigned wellness library features dozens of updated articles, detailed information about oral health conditions for both adults and children, helpful videos and much more, all with a fresh, inviting new look.

The available content covers a broad spectrum of useful topics, ranging from the importance of preventive care, to healthy habits that ensure teeth and gums look and feel great, to oral health issues to watch out for and their treatments.

What’s more, our wellness library addresses your entire extended employee family, with content that addresses everything from the oral health needs of toddlers, children and teens to healthy aging tips for seniors.

And of course, an important part of maintaining oral health is maintaining a diet that supports your smile and takes it easy on your teeth. Our wellness library features not only a wealth of informative nutrition content, but also provides your employees with a stellar selection of smile-friendly recipes, including snacks, drinks and desserts. We even offer recipes for special diets, including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes and diabetic-friendly meals.

So make sure your employees don’t miss out! For the best in up-to-date oral health information, remind them to take advantage of Delta Dental’s wellness library. You can also share these resources with employees by posting them to portal pages, adding them to employee newsletters or sharing them on social media. Our website is also optimized for mobile devices, so this content is accessible anywhere, on any device.

And don’t forget that your employees also have access to Grin!, our fun, free quarterly dental magazine, chock full of interesting features, oral health tips, seasonal content and even more great recipes. They can subscribe with one easy click. And for your employees with children, there’s Grin! for Kids, too.

Finally, don’t miss out on our helpful wellness calendar, which is another way to provide your employees with a host of relevant wellness content ― all year long!

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