Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: employee wellness

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.

3 reasons your employees expect great dental insurance now

The pandemic has changed how we work, how we interact and how we think about our health and safety. Attitudes toward oral health have changed, too, and dental insurance has become more important than ever. 

Here are some of the top reasons why your employees expect great dental benefits now and how Delta Dental can help you provide them with what they’re looking for.

1. The pandemic has increased the need for dental benefits

Although dental offices are open and many patients have resumed regular visits, the pandemic is still taking a toll on the nation’s oral health.

Nearly half of U.S. adults reported delaying dental care due to the pandemic. And a 2021 survey showed a major increase, up to 71%, in stress-related oral health conditions during the pandemic, with more than a quarter of the dentists reporting an increase in cavities and gum disease.

Employees need strong dental plans to handle the health issues arising due to the pandemic. Comprehensive dental coverage can also help them reduce the chances for serious (and expensive) health issues down the line. 

With Delta Dental PPO™ and DeltaCare® USA plans, you can meet the demand with affordable, flexible plans with great features that encourage access to preventive care, like maximum waivers for diagnostic and preventive services.

2. Employers must boost benefits to combat the Great Resignation

The pandemic has triggered an exodus from the workforce that economists have labeled the “Great Resignation.” One of the top reasons employees are giving for leaving a job is lack of adequate benefits. 

As the pandemic reshapes the labor market, companies like yours must rethink and retool benefits to attract and retain talent. Employers who offer dental already know that employees consistently rank dental insurance as one of the most important benefits in making a job decision. Offering a comprehensive benefits package that includes robust dental coverage has become more crucial than ever.

You can help your company remain competitive by offering a dental plan that stands out. With Delta Dental, you can create or enhance plans with attractive added benefits that employees want, like coverage for popular but costly services such as implants and orthodontics.

3. Patients want teledentistry as an option

Fear of returning to the dentist caused teledentistry to boom during the pandemic, with more patients using the technology than ever before. For instance, Delta Dental’s synchronous and asynchronous teledentistry claims in 2021 were six times and two times higher than 2019 levels, respectively.

Many consumers grew accustomed to using teledentistry during the pandemic, and they want to have it as an option moving forward for its safety and convenience. Satisfaction levels with teledentistry services during the COVID-19 pandemic were 100% in the satisfied and very satisfied categories, according to one recent study, and 96% of participating patients in another study said they would use the service again.

When your employees are covered under a Delta Dental PPO or Delta Dental Premier plan, they have two options for free-to-access, easy-to-use teledentistry platforms.

And with Delta Dental, your employees can still see a dentist in person after choosing a virtual dentistry appointment. Delta Dental’s teledentistry options give your employees access to the technology they want now.

Your employees need great dental benefits in a post-pandemic world

Employees value dental benefits now more than ever. If you haven’t already, consider increasing current benefits to keep your workplace competitive in the new post-pandemic marketplace. Whatever your needs, Delta Dental is here to support your company with affordable, quality plans.

Make the switch to healthy workplace snacks

We’ve all seen it: When that afternoon energy crash hits, people start circling the workplace like hungry sharks, looking for any available chocolate stash or desktop candy bowl.

Support your wellness initiatives and help your team stay healthy by trading in the candy, cookies and chips for healthier options that can keep teams energized and in great oral health.

Update that vending machine

Ask your vending machine provider to switch out the sugary options for better choices like nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, popcorn, beef jerky, fresh vegetables like baby carrots and celery, string cheese or fruit (fresh or canned in its own juice). More and more vending machine companies are providing healthier choices, and newer machines even offer cooling systems to support fresh, perishable foods. One study found that simply the presentation of healthy options can influence people’s decision-making and encourage them to choose wisely.

Step up your fruit game

Do your employees say they’re desperately in need of a quick sugar boost? Fruits like bananas and apples do a great job of providing it, but with the added benefit of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B‑6 and fiber. While some fruits have high sugar content, they have fewer calories and fat and less available sugar than a chocolate bar. The fiber in fresh fruit also slows down sugar absorption and helps employees avoid those energy peaks and valleys associated with processed, high-sugar foods. Eating an apple, orange or other fibrous fruit can also help keep teeth clean and increases salivation, which can neutralize citric and malic acids left behind in the mouth.

So instead of a candy jar on the reception desk, how about a colorful basket of apples, tangerines, bananas and pears? A tiered wire or mesh fruit basket allows you to offer fruit without overcrowding, and it doesn’t take up any more countertop real estate than a traditional bowl. The wire mesh lets air circulate, slowing down the deterioration process.

Celebrate with healthy options

Even office traditions like birthdays and holidays can change to include healthier, tooth-friendly options. For your next office celebration, include some sugar-free chocolate cupcakes (an added bonus: these are also gluten free), and serve them up with a side of strawberry-banana ice cream. For a refreshing drink, mix up a pitcher of iced tea or water with cucumber or fruit slices.

Stay healthy at home

If your employees are working from home, you can still encourage them to take care of their oral health by snacking wisely during the workday. Here are some of the ways Delta Dental resources can help you remind employees about the importance of eating healthy:

Whether through wholesome choices in the workplace, sugar-free celebrations or reminders for remote workers, you can help keep your employees healthy and happy by guiding them toward nutritious alternatives for their workday snacking.

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