Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: enrollees

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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How to respect enrollee (data) privacy

2-minute read

According to a recent survey, 90% of people worry about their data privacy, yet most feel powerless to protect it. We don’t want you to feel this way when it comes to your enrollees’ data. While Delta Dental has cyber risk experts and safeguards in place to keep enrollee data secure when we’re handling it — including personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI) — you can take some simple steps to keep enrollee data private when it’s in your hands too.

We asked some of our cyber risk specialists for their top tips to help you safeguard private enrollee data.

Keep (and share) only what’s needed
The more private enrollee data you have, the bigger the risk. If the data has already served its purpose and there isn’t an operational or legal need for it, it’s best to destroy it. The same principal applies when sharing sensitive information — send the minimum amount needed to get the job done.

Slow down, and check before you send
Before you transmit any private enrollee data, double check that you’re sending the correct information to the correct recipient. This may sound like common sense, but one of the most common types of privacy incidents is sending sensitive data to the wrong person — electronically or via snail mail. Be sure that you have the most current enrollee addresses, and always update any necessary partners who may also need them (like us!).

Build a strong virtual defense
Password protection is a key player, but it’s just one part of the privacy defense. Using a VPN for remote access, maintaining strong firewalls and conducting regular vulnerability scans are also crucial to data privacy. If you’re sending any sensitive data through email, be sure to do so safely, such as through secure file transfer processes (SFTPs). And don’t forget about that data when it’s not in transit — using encryption for data at rest adds an extra layer of defense. (Pro-tip: Never store private, sensitive data in your email.)  

Empower yourself and your team
Data privacy can seem overwhelming without the right training. Cyber risks are always evolving, like phishing scams that have gotten so advanced, it’s difficult for most people to spot a fake. That’s why it’s so important for anyone who handles PII or PHI to receive regular training to identify threats and keep enrollee private data safe.    

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3 resolutions to simplify your benefits

2-minute read

Waking up earlier, working out regularly, cutting out sugar … sometimes starting our New Year’s resolutions can be a bit, well, painful. Here’s some good news — we’ve got resolutions to make managing your Delta Dental benefits even easier. Check out our top tips to ring in the new benefits year right.

(1) Arm yourself and your team with the right tools. 

Need to make real-time updates to your plan? With Delta Dental’s Eligibility Management Application (EMA) and Online Billing Reconciliation (OBR) tools, you can do exactly that. 1

EMA gives you the power to add or remove enrollees from a plan, update personal information, modify effective dates and more! With OBR, you can make payments and track and reconcile invoices all in the same secure place.

New year tip: Send your account manager a list of everyone on your benefits team who needs administrator access to OBR and EMA this year, so the right people are set up to use the tools from the get-go.

(2) Set the facts straight about ID cards.

Remind enrollees they do not need an ID card to receive dental care. They can simply give the dental office a bit of personal information and they’re all set.

New year tip: We get it — some of us still like physical proof of coverage. If that’s the case, your enrollees can present ID cards from a mobile device by logging in to Online Services or downloading the Delta Dental app (provided by the Delta Dental Plans Association). ID cards can also be printed via Online Services if enrollees prefer (or you can print them for enrollees in EMA).

(3) Share (and reshare) your benefits basics.

While you may be an expert on the dental benefits your group offers, sometimes your enrollees need a reminder.

New year tip: Save yourself time answering common enrollee questions throughout the year by reviewing these topics with enrollees now.

  • Plan type: Be sure enrollees know whether they have a Delta Dental PPOTM or DeltaCare® USA (our copay option) plan. Encourage them to check out their plan Policy to learn how their plan type works.
  • Finding a network dentist: The quickest way to find a dentist is online, using the Find a Dentist tool. Enrollees can find a network provider by plan type, location and specialty. We’ve even added Yelp ratings to help guide enrollees.
  • Annual deductibles and maximums: If your enrollees have Delta Dental PPO, the plan likely includes annual deductibles and maximums. Point enrollees to their plan Policy for the specific details. (Frequently, deductibles are waived for diagnostic and preventive care!)  

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OBR and EMA may be unavailable for some groups, including small business plans, which are managed by a team of service experts at one of our third-party administrators (TPAs). Each TPA offers their own suite of online tools and services.

Healthy holidays!

Wishing you and your enrollees bright smiles and your brightest holiday season yet.

While we work hard to keep your enrollees’ smiles healthy, it’s your support that keeps Delta Dental smiling all year long. Thank you for letting us serve you this year, and for staying in touch with us by reading Word of Mouth. We look forward to bringing you even more helpful and engaging content next year.

Remember, if you have any topics you’d like to hear about, please Contact Us. And be sure to download our holiday kit for great ways to encourage enrollees to make healthy choices amidst the holiday hustle and bustle.

Enjoy the season!

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