Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: oral health (Page 1 of 3)

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.

You can support teens during National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week

The teenage years are often a time for young people to explore and learn more about themselves and the world as they approach adulthood. This may involve experimenting and testing their boundaries. The desire to try new things is a normal part of teen development, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved.

This March, you have the perfect opportunity to share information about the effects of substance abuse on teen’s oral health with your employees. National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW), observed from March 21 to March 27, is an annual recognition of the science of drug use and addiction among teens.

Why do teens use substances?

By the time they reach 12th grade, almost 50% of teenagers have used illicit drugs and 60% have tried alcohol. The reasons for substance use vary and include:

  • The desire to fit in and be social
  • Experimenting with experiences and relieving boredom
  • Coping with stress, trauma or abuse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Showing independence

How do drugs and alcohol affect oral health?

In severe cases, drug and alcohol abuse can result in overdoses or brain damage. But illicit substances can have less noticeable long-term effects.

  • Dry mouth. Drugs like meth and heroin often reduce the saliva flow in the mouth and result in dry mouth.
  • Tooth decay. Drinks with alcohol in them can be very acidic, which can cause enamel erosion.
  • Acid reflux. Alcohol can cause acid reflux by relaxing muscles in the stomach which usually prevents stomach acid from traveling up the esophagus.
  • Teeth grinding. Also called bruxism, teeth grinding and clenching can be a result of muscle spasms that occur when stimulant drugs like ecstasy or cocaine are taken.
  • Ulcers and sores. While acidity in alcoholic beverages can cause ulcers in the mouth, street drugs made in home labs can be contaminated with chemicals and bacteria that causes sores as well.
  • Oral cancer. The damage that drugs and alcohol do in the mouth can result in a higher risk of oral cancer, one of the deadliest diseases of the mouth.

Substance abuse can cause oral health issues in more round-about ways, too. Long-term usage can result in problems taking care of basic needs, like eating a varied diet or maintain an oral health routine. Over time, users can develop nutritional deficiencies that can endanger oral health. They can also develop oral health conditions like gum disease, which may increase their risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Materials you can share

As a benefits administrator, you can help address teen substance use by educating parents and any teenagers in your employ about the risks and statistics that come with illicit drug and alcohol usage. Delta Dental has materials that you can use, including:

  • Wellness articles about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the mouth
  • An email you can send to employees that features articles and videos about the connection between substance use and oral health
  • A poster you can print that shows risk factors for oral cancer

Looking for more materials? The National Institute of Health has built a variety of additional resources that you can share easily:

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!

4 oral health problems teens face and how you can help

When you’re building your benefits package, are you thinking about teenagers? You may not have benefits-eligible teenage employees, but it’s likely your benefits package will be covering teenagers as dependents. Here are some common dental concerns that teenagers face and how you can develop a better benefits package to help your employees’ children.

1. Cavities

With teens’ love of snacking and their inconsistent brushing habits, it should be no surprise that dental decay is the most common chronic disease in young people. There are some easy ways to stop cavities before they start. Sealants are thin coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth that can prevent cavities for years, which means that sealants applied during childhood can help during the teen years.

2. Misaligned teeth

Permanent teeth replace baby teeth in older children, and the jawbones can continue to grow until the end of puberty. A misalignment of the teeth and jaws may get better ― or worse ― by the time the jawbones have stopped growing.

Without coverage, prospective orthodontic patients can expect to pay between $3,000 and $6,000 depending on their age. Delta Dental plans can help cut these costs in half. Orthodontic coverage is available under all DeltaCare USA group plans and can be optionally included in any Delta Dental PPO plan.

3. Impacted wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to develop and erupt into the mouth, usually in the late teens. Since the jaw is still growing, wisdom teeth are sometimes impacted, meaning they don’t have enough room to emerge or develop normally. Almost 5 million people get wisdom teeth removed every year in the United States.

Wisdom teeth extraction can be expensive. Consider having your plan cover a higher percentage of the cost of wisdom teeth extractions. If that’s not viable for your plan, a lower deductible can help families as well by letting them pay less out of pocket before they reach their deductible.

4. Eating disorders

About 9% of Americans will develop an eating disorder at some point in their life, often in their teenage years. Eating disorders are life-threatening conditions that can have serious consequences for oral health and overall health. They can cause nutritional deficiencies that effect the mouth, as well as sensitive teeth, frequent cavities and dry mouth as a result of purging.

Dentists can be a great ally in the fight against the effects of eating disorders like bulimia (PDF) by identifying signs of the disorder, like eroded enamel and damaged gums, and offering sealants and fluoride treatments. These treatments can help reduce the damage that stomach acid causes when someone vomits. Most plans cover sealants and fluoride treatments until patients turn 15. If you’re also handling your clients’ health care package, you may also consider covering mental health treatment that can help to treat the illness altogether.

What else can you do to support teens’ dental health?

While these problems aren’t unique to adolescents, it’s still a good idea to have these in mind when considering your company’s dental benefits. If you’re in a position to do so, consider sharing information that highlights plan features like teledentistry, which could be helpful for busy teens and their parents. You could also explore Delta Dental’s wellness resources and share a selection of helpful articles and flyers in an email or on an internal site.

Remember to be consistent! When communicating helpful information to your employees, using multiple channels can be confusing and difficult to keep track of. Find a simple routine for sharing, like posting information on an internal webpage with monthly or quarterly email notifications, so that your employees always know where to look.

How gum disease is connected to overall health

When your employees want to improve their health, chances are they’ll start by improving their diet, beginning an exercise program or quitting bad habits like smoking.

These are all fantastic ways to get healthier, but your employees may not realize that their gums are also crucial to their overall well-being. This February for Gum Disease Awareness Month, remind employees of the often-overlooked connection between gum health and overall health.

The connection between gum disease and overall health

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a common bacterial infection that causes a chronic inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue. It’s the major cause of adult tooth loss, and it affects nearly half of people over 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The effects of gum disease extend well beyond the mouth. Gum disease has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including:

  • Heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Inflammation from bacteria in the gums may eventually lead to narrowing of arteries and heart trouble.
  • Dementia. Chronic gum inflammation can be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
  • Glaucoma. Tooth loss and gum disease may increase the risk of this disease of the optic nerve.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. The bacterium that causes periodontal disease may increase the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, lead to an earlier onset of the disease and cause symptoms to progress more quickly.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing gum disease. In turn, having gum disease can make your blood glucose harder to control.
  • Premature birth and low birth weight. Pregnant women are at increased risk of gum disease due to hormonal changes and increased blood flow. Gum disease is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, as well as low birth weight and other pregnancy complications.

Early treatment of gum disease can effectively lower health costs in the long term. The devastating effects of the condition in its developed stages are largely preventable when employees stay informed and take action.

Ways to keep your employees informed

Your employees may be unaware of the connection between gum disease and overall health. What’s more, many of them may not realize they have gum disease. The condition isn’t usually painful, and many people don’t know they have gum disease until it progresses to more serious conditions, such as tooth loss.

Delta Dental has a wealth of resources you can use to educate your employees during Gum Disease Awareness Month and beyond. You can:

How your Delta Dental coverage can support employees’ gum health

Routine dental checkups and cleanings, covered by all Delta Dental plan as diagnostic and preventive services, can help prevent and monitor gum disease.

Treatments for gum disease, such as scaling and root planing, are typically covered under most dental plans under periodontic services.

When non-surgical treatment is inadequate, Delta Dental’s standard plans offer several surgical treatments to slow down or prevent the progression of the disease. Common procedures include:

  • Gingivectomy. Diseased gum tissue is removed and reshaped to get rid of pockets between the teeth and gums.
  • Gingival flap surgery. Gum tissue is separated from surrounding teeth and deflected back to allow a dental surgeon access to the jawbone and the root of the tooth for deep scaling and root planning.
  • Osseous Surgery. Also called pocket reduction surgery, this procedure eliminates the bacteria populating the pockets by cutting the gums to remove the bacteria and repair the damaged bone.
  • Bone grafting. This procedure increases the amount of bone in a part of the jaw where bone has been lost or where additional support is needed. Bone may be taken from elsewhere in the body and surgically fused to existing bone in the jaw.

Employees with chronic conditions may be at a higher risk for gum disease. SmileWay® Wellness Benefits offers additional coverage for gum treatment for those diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis or stroke.

Looking to improve your support for employees with or at risk of gum disease? Talk to your Account Manager about how your dental plan can improve employee health and reduce long-term costs.

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