Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: oral health (Page 1 of 3)

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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Stories to smile about: Robert

Dental care with dignity – war veteran gets his smile and his life back.

2-minute read

What if a healthy smile could restore dignity, improve your quality of life and career outlook? For one very deserving man, that’s exactly what happened when he visited one of the UNLV Delta Dental Saturday Morning Community Clinics.

After many years of suffering with teeth that caused physical and emotional pain, Vietnam War veteran Robert Bennett finally received the care his smile needed at the Sgt. Clint Ferrin Memorial Clinic, one of four dental clinics that make up the UNLV Delta Dental Saturday Morning Community Clinics.

This is what Robert had to say to UNLV about his experience at the clinic:

“It’s not only [that I was] happy with the care, it’s the professionalism that goes along with it — it’s the way you’re treated from the time you walk through the door, to the time that you get into the chair. And then the doctors that oversee what [the dental students] do and help, they come up constantly, and they introduce themselves and let you know what you’re going to be going through.

[They] had to surgically remove almost every tooth in my mouth, or what was left of my teeth. [After receiving treatment and a full set of dentures,] I’m eating and smiling and communicating with people again. It changes your life. I mean it just gives you your dignity back. You are somebody again. And I get to apply again for a job. Look what they did!”

Robert Bennett, Vietnam War veteran

Robert’s story is especially meaningful to us at Delta Dental. Last year, The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation granted $50,000 to support these clinics, which provide much needed dental care to underinsured and uninsured people throughout Southern Nevada.

Successes like this are the reason the Foundation exists — to improve health and enhance lives in the communities we serve. We’re so grateful for partners like the UNLV School of Dental Medicine, who give us opportunities like this one to make a real difference.


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Do you have a project that qualifies for funding? Visit the Foundation’s section of our website to learn more and apply for funding.

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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Thanks for brightening our year

Wishing you and your enrollees your healthiest, happiest holiday season yet.

While your enrollees’ smiles are our top priority, it’s your support that keeps us smiling in return. We’re so grateful for clients like you who make our entire year merry and bright!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Word of Mouth in 2018, and we can’t wait to bring you even more engaging content next year. Remember, this blog is for you – so we’d love your suggestions on topics you’d like to hear more about. And if you’re not already, be sure to subscribe to Word of Mouth so you never miss out on helpful articles, tips and industry news.

Cheers to the New Year! We’re looking forward to serving you in 2019.

The cost correlation: Dental benefits may lower businesses’ overall health spend

4-minute read

It’s common knowledge that oral health is linked to overall well-being. What might surprise you, however, is the significant impact your employees’ oral health status can have on your business’s total health care budget. In fact, of the top 10 health conditions costing employers the most, five are linked to oral health.*

#1 Diabetes
Topping the list of costliest employer conditions is diabetes, affecting nearly one in 10 Americans. Not only do diabetics face a higher than normal risk for developing oral health problems like periodontal disease and oral infections, but these problems may be more severe for a diabetic person. It’s not all bad news though. It’s been suggested that treating gum disease can help control blood sugar in diabetic patients, which may slow disease progression. And, receiving routine dentist cleanings and practicing healthy oral hygiene habits may help to lower HbA1c levels (average blood glucose over time).

#2 Cancer
Oral cancer is likely not the first cancer that comes to mind for most of us. Yet, head and neck cancers (85% of which are oral) account for approximately $3.2 billion in treatment costs each year.

Oftentimes, the early symptoms of oral cancers go unnoticed by patients, making them particularly dangerous. That’s why regular dental exams are so important. Dentists and dental hygienists may be able to identify the signs and symptoms of oral cancers when they’re still in the early or even pre-cancerous stages.

#5 Heart disease

The dental industry has been aware of the correlation between heart disease and oral health for years, and supporting evidence continues to emerge. While we still can’t say the relationship between oral health and heart health is causal, new research suggests that poor dental health, including gum disease and infrequent toothbrushing, may be a risk factor for heart disease.

#6 Hypertension
Recently, an association between hypertension and dental health has also been found — specifically blood pressure control. A new study showed that those with gum disease were less likely to respond to hypertension medications than those with good oral health. The authors of this study go on to say that “those with high blood pressure might benefit from regular dental care”.

#10 High-risk pregnancy
Compared to the average employer medical costs for a healthy, full-term baby, the costs for premature and/or low-birth weight babies is nearly 12 times as much. While the relationship between periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes is still being explored, we do know that a mother’s health can impact her baby — and oral health is no exception. Research suggests that expectant mothers with poor oral health may face higher risks of pre-term delivery and of passing disease-causing bacteria to their child. This makes it even more important for expectant mothers to receive regular dental exams during pregnancy. The dentist can evaluate the individual needs of the mother and may even recommend an additional cleaning.

How can dental benefits help?

Regular dental care can help manage certain health conditions and even detect some early, which can help prevent costly medical expenses in the future.

However, your dental benefits may be able to do more than cover routine dental care to improve wellness. Ask these questions about your dental benefits to find out how they can boost overall health and your business’s bottom line:

  • Is there extra support for those with chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease? Providing additional coverage to enrollees with certain medical conditions may prevent or halt the progression of disease, which can help you manage dental and medical expenses down the road.
  • How can I track employees’ oral health status? Do I receive useful reports? Regular reporting on your enrollees’ oral health habits can highlight where your group is doing well and help identify areas where enrollees can improve oral health, and in turn, improve overall health.
  • How is oral health supported during pregnancy? Are additional cleanings covered? An extra cleaning during pregnancy can lead to healthier babies and may lower certain pregnancy risks associated with oral bacteria.
  • Are oral health and wellness resources readily available? Your enrollees may not even be aware of the impact oral health can have on their overall health. Carriers who provide valuable wellness resources can help encourage enrollees to be active participants in their oral health.

 

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*The oral health information in this article is not intended to be used as medical advice. Patients should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning oral health.

Tackling orthodontics

With football season just around the corner, it seems fitting to tackle a popular, yet often misunderstood topic — orthodontics. If you’re offering your employees orthodontic coverage, make sure you’re up to speed on your dental benefits game.

If you don’t already offer orthodontic benefits, you might consider coverage at renewal, as it can be an attractive benefit if you’re trying to build or retain your workforce. A recent study shows that 88% of employees take “better health, dental and vision insurance” into consideration when choosing a job.

The Xs and Os

Generally, here’s what our plans cover*:

  • Pre-orthodontic treatment visit
  • Pre- and post-treatment records
  • Extractions for orthodontics
  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Retention

The MVP

Our copay orthodontics game is strong! Compared to typical copay products (similar to DHMOs), DeltaCare® USA is leading the league, with features like:

  • A variety of treatment levels — interceptive orthodontics for children, limited orthodontics for children and adults, and comprehensive orthodontics for children and adults*
  • A unique orthodontic takeover provision that allows enrollees to continue active treatment with their current orthodontist — even if the provider is not in our DeltaCare USA network
  • Extractions for orthodontic treatment that could save enrollees hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket

If you currently offer orthodontic coverage, review the playbooks for Delta Dental PPOTM and DeltaCare USA plans and pass them on to your employees. For specifics, you can review your group contract and enrollees should log in to Online Services (or review their plan booklet) to confirm coverage.

 For more news and dental insights for benefits administrators, human resources professionals and businesses, subscribe to Word of Mouth.

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* Your benefits may differ from the general information provided here. Review your group contract for specific details regarding coverage under your plan.

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