Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: workplace tips (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.

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.

Help your employees quit smoking for the Great American Smokeout

November is the perfect time to encourage your employees who smoke to quit. On the third Thursday of each November, the American Cancer Society sponsors the Great American Smokeout, a day to inspire people to stop smoking.

Supporting your employees through cessation is one of the most effective steps you can take to help improve their dental and overall health. In honor of the Great American Smokeout, help your employees who smoke create a plan to quit.

How smoking affects your employees’ health

About 34 million American adults smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, or about one in five of all deaths.

The total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year, including more than $225 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity.

Most people know that smoking greatly increases the risk for many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But smoking can also take a serious toll on oral health. The damage includes:

  • Tooth discoloration. The nicotine and tar in cigarettes can cause yellow or stained teeth.
  • Cavities. Consuming nicotine reduces saliva production in the mouth, and without enough moisture, plaque and tartar easily build up on the teeth, leading to cavities.
  • Gum recession. Smoking irritates the lining of the gums, causing them to pull back from the teeth. Nicotine from smoking or vaping reduces blood flow to the teeth and gums, which also contributes to gum recession.
  • Gum disease. Smoking weakens the immune system, which makes smokers more vulnerable to developing gum disease. Smokers have twice the risk of gum disease compared with non-smokers, and that risk increases the more you smoke.
  • Tooth loss. Male smokers are up to 3.6 times more likely to lose their teeth than non-smokers, while female smokers are up to 2.5 times more likely.
  • Oral cancer. Tobacco is the major risk factor for cancers of the mouth and throat. Smokers are 10 times more likely than non-smokers to develop oral cancer.

Resources for the Great American Smokeout

Quitting smoking isn’t easy. Cessation often requires long-term support. To have the best chance of quitting and remaining smoke-free, your employees will need to know the facts: what they’re up against, what their options are and where to go for help.

Use the following resources as reminders and encouragement for your employees:

It’s time to get comfortable with casual dress codes

The business formal dress code has been dying for decades. The rebellious anti-dress codes of ‘70s Silicon Valley spread slowly through American offices until business casual struck even the most old-school firms in the 1990s. The rise of the tech start-up in the 2000s has slackened dress codes even more. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, dress codes are relaxing even more.

The pandemic has shifted employee expectations

After more than a third of American workers spent the better part of a year working from home, getting them back to the office may be enough of a problem. Getting them back into blazers and slacks? That may not happen at all.

Casual dress policies have long been considered a perk, but for some workers they’ve been turning into a requirement for some workers. The shift from soft and stretchy loungewear at home to less comfortable clothes is just not desirable for employees., especially in a market where businesses are struggling to hire.

What’s the point of your dress code?

It’s important for your company to nail down why it has the dress code it does to see whether it can change. Is it the desire to be perceived externally as professional? Is the goal to maximize productivity? If so, how is your dress code maximizing productivity?

There’s a popular belief that to work their best, employees need to dress their best and that can be true. Wearing a suit may give a sales representative more confidence and authority, but people in other positions may not need those boosts to be efficient in their job. It may be more distracting dealing with shoes that hurt your feet or slacks and button ups that are too heavy for the summer heat. In those cases, the cons of uncomfortable clothing may out weight the pros.

The financial burden of formal dress codes

It’s easy to say that people who have uncomfortable work attire should just buy new clothes, but is that always reasonable? Work suits can cost hundreds of dollars and professional clothes for women can be prohibitively expensive and the costs can add up quickly. Business casual outfits cost much less on average which allows workers to invest in more options and replace uncomfortable workwear.

For women, makeup and hair care present an additional financial burden as well as a considerable time commitment. Women spend an average of 55 minutes on grooming and $8 worth of makeup each day. Many women have reported that they intend to leave additional grooming behind after a year of not needing to go through their routines.

Online work and relaxed dress codes may help lessen the divide between the cost of men and women’s work wardrobes will hopefully lessen. If your weight fluctuates, you don’t need to buy a full suit or new dress to be comfortable and professional on video calls. Casual or no makeup can free up time to get other things done, so you’re less stressed while working.

Finding the balance

For most companies, returning to in office work in some capacity is a necessity. This is the opportune moment for a company to reassess its dress code to prioritize productivity, diversity and inclusion and the company culture they want to cultivate. Figuring out a way to balance an employee’s expectations of comfort and financial investments with what is an actual necessity for your company is a great place to start.

How to support your Asian American and Pacific Islander employees

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and it’s a great time to celebrate and honor your AAPI employees. In addition to fun and festivities at work, one way to help your employees feel seen and heard is to offer them quality benefits that fit their needs. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to let your AAPI employees know you have their back.

What hurdles do AAPI populations face when accessing dental care?

In general, racial and ethnic minorities can face extra difficulties when it comes to accessing oral health care in the United States. When it comes to AAPI populations, individuals’ time spent in the United States is the strongest predictor of whether or not they’ve recently visited the dentist. Native-born and long-time residents are more likely to visit the dentist than recent immigrants for three reasons:

  • They’ve likely had more experience with the U.S. health care system. Outside the U.S., dental and medical are often both covered through the same insurance system and may even be available within a single medical center. New immigrants face a learning curve navigating the U.S. system.
  • They’re likely more comfortable communicating in English. Language barriers can make it difficult to find dental insurance, understand coverage and communicate with a dentist.
  • They’re likely wealthier than recent immigrants, so they have an easier time accessing and affording care. Wealth increases for immigrants of all races as the time they spend in the U.S. increases.

These may seem like issues that can only be solved by time, but dental insurance can help to address them. Dental insurance:

  • Assists employees in understanding the care they need by making diagnostic and preventive care available at no cost or low-cost
  • Reduces employees’ out-of-pocket costs with contracted rates at in-network dentists and cost sharing
  • Helps to bridge language and experience gaps with written material in multiple languages and in-person interpretation

How can I support my AAPI employees?

When it comes to supporting AAPI employees, actions are more important than words. Offer resources that help them get the care they need and alert them to the existence of these resources. If employees are unfamiliar with insurance or dental care systems, they may not know what they need!

If you have a large population of AAPI employees with limited English proficiency, consider providing materials (such as benefits highlight sheets) in their native languages to help them understand their coverage. Delta Dental can provide translations of these essential documents for you to distribute. Just talk to your account manager.

What resources does Delta Dental offer to its AAPI members?

Language barriers can be a major impediment to effectively communicating with a dentist and getting needed care. Approximately 77% of AAPI families speak non-English languages at home. The most common AAPI languages in the United States are:

  • Chinese
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Hindi and Urdu

Delta Dental offers resources and tools to all of its members that may be especially useful to your AAPI employees and their families, including:

  • The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that employees can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person interpreter when given 72 hours’ notice.
  • The Find a Dentist tool. Employees can use Delta Dental’s online directory to locate dentists who fit their specific needs. They can search by distance and specialty or search by languages spoken (such as Chinese or Tagalog) and accessibility features.

May is AAPI Heritage Month, but there’s no bad time for considering your employee’s dental care needs. Offering quality benefits like dental insurance is a great way to support the health of your AAPI employees, their families and everyone else on your staff, too.

Employer considerations for COVID-19 vaccines

The speed and efficacy with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed is a testament to human ingenuity and the drive to create a safer world for us all. The three vaccines that are widely available in the U.S. (Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) have all received emergency authorization by the FDA after demonstrating both efficacy and safety, but there are still some points you may want to consider when deciding on how your company should approach a vaccine policy.

What are my options as an employer?

There are three main courses of action you could take when it comes to employees and vaccines:

  • Do nothing. This means choosing not to implement a company-wide vaccine policy and not advocating for and encouraging vaccinations. Doing nothing may not be the optimal choice from a public health perspective, but it’s certainly a valid one from a legal standpoint. Mandating or incentivizing vaccination could help to reduce increased costs or absenteeism from employees, but it can also expose your company to legal liability depending on how such policies are implemented (and how litigious employees are).
  • Encourage and incentivize vaccination. This is a gentler approach than outright mandating vaccinations as a condition of continued employment. Encouraging employees to get vaccinated is legally safe, although it may run the risk of upsetting employees who don’t believe in vaccination, who have concerns about vaccine safety, who have health considerations that keep them from getting vaccinated or who simply don’t like feeling pressured when it comes to managing their health. Incentives, such as offering paid time off or a bonus to employees who get vaccinated, must be carefully implemented, however. Aside from the cost considerations that comes with bonuses and incentives, you may find yourself legally liable for any issues that arise if you implement on-site vaccinations.
  • Mandate vaccination. This is an aggressive option, but it’s certainly the most effective from the point of prioritizing the health and safety of employees. Mandating that employees get vaccinated is generally legal (although it may not be in some states), but it’s possible that some implementations of such a policy could put you at legal risk (for example, setting up on-site vaccinations or inquiring about employees’ personal health to determine their eligibility for vaccination).

Which employees should get vaccinated first?

Until vaccines become more widely available, it’s best to prioritize employees who are most vulnerable to exposure and at greatest risk of complications from COVID-19. Of course, in health care and senior care industries, everyone with regular contact with the ill and elderly should be vaccinated. Outside of these industries, consider prioritizing:

  • Employees who work in close physical contact
  • Employees who have regular exposure to customers and other members of the public
  • Employees who have regular exposure to heavily trafficked enclosed spaces, food products or other settings where infection may be a risk
  • Employees who are 65 or older
  • Employees who are 16–65 with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of life-threatening COVID-19 complications

What are the risks of implementing a vaccine policy?

You could get into legal trouble if pre-screening vaccination questions aren’t job-related and consistent with the requirements of your business. To avoid this outcome, make sure that any pre-screening questions are related to the job and that you can prove that unvaccinated employees pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other employees. Similarly, you could get into legal trouble if you attempt to prevent workers’ concerted activity, such as expressing opposition to mandatory vaccines.

Make sure to follow state and local laws, as well. Some locales may have prohibitions against mandating vaccines that aren’t required by state or federal law.

Setting a policy and moving forward

Before settling on the policy that’s best for your company and your employees, there are a few final things to consider.

  • Make sure you follow all federal, state and local laws. You don’t want to put your organization at risk of legal exposure. Do some research to make sure you stay up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations.
  • Get a sense of how employees feel. If you have employees who feel very strongly about vaccines, either adopting a mandatory policy or doing nothing may cause disquiet. Taking surveys of employee sentiments can be a good way to decide how to craft your message.
  • Identify who should be doing the communication. Figures like respected managers, team leaders and union officials can be excellent ambassadors for your company’s policies, especially in larger organizations where employees may not have personal relationships with upper management.
  • Be transparent. As always, communication is key when it comes to rolling out new policies that can affect employees’ work lives. Let employees know both what your COVID-19 vaccine policy is and how that position was reached. Be sure to listen to and address employee concerns, even if your policy remains firm.

Regardless of what policy you decide to implement, wearing masks and respecting social distancing will stay important aspects of infection management. Even as vaccines become more readily available, maintain practices and procedures to minimize the chance of infection and help your entire organization stay healthy.

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