(by Larry F. Hill)
For obvious reasons to anyone who works in HR, dental benefits don’t usually get the same attention as medical coverage—especially when it comes to how workers perceive the value of their employee benefits. But if your group health plan offers dental benefits (or if you offer standalone dental benefits), have you considered how the quality of your dental coverage can impact employee retention—as well as your overall healthcare costs?
And if your company doesn’t offer dental coverage as part of your group health plan, you may be missing out a key attraction and retention tool. That’s especially true today as companies compete for workers in a post-COVID world.
Why Do Your Dental Benefits Matter?
There are three key reasons why offering dental coverage to your employees benefits both them and your company:
- Employees want dental benefits. In a 2014 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), 67% of employees said they considered dental benefits to be very or extremely important. A more recent study by Lincoln Financial found that 82% of workers consider dental coverage “very important,” while 54% called it a “must-have.” And they’re getting more savvy about what the costs will be under group health plans.
- Your competitors offer dental coverage. Employers are listening to what employees want. In their 2018 Human Resources study, the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) reported that 97% of employers of all sizes offered dental benefits of some kind.
- Dental health is directly linked to overall health (and healthcare costs!). A dazzling smile is great, but according to the Mayo Clinic, poor oral health has been tied to cardiovascular conditions, complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and more. In addition, other health conditions, including diabetes, often reveal themselves by contributing to oral health issues.
Why the Quality of Your Dental Coverage Matters:
There are lots of different types of dental benefit plan designs. Here’s why it’s important to choose wisely, especially this year.
Benefits must be used to be effective. When it comes to their employee benefits, HR has done a good job of encouraging workers to consider the total costs, not just premiums. Dental premiums are typically low compared to medical premiums, but major dental care can come with a hefty price tag. And if they’re forced to choose because of high out-of-pocket cost, employees will generally ignore dental care before medical care.
This SHRM article quotes studies showing that 25% of adults don’t see a dentist even once a year. The age group least likely to go twice a year is millennials, who say cost is the main reason. In addition, 40% of respondents reported delaying procedures—exams, X-rays, tests, etc.—because of their high out-of-pocket costs. If your dental coverage has low premiums but doesn’t make a real dent in employee costs, it’s not helping anybody.
COVID-19 has created a perfect storm of postponed dental care and restless workers. Many people who stayed home during the pandemic—working or not—didn’t pay a lot of attention to their oral health. According to the American Association of Endodontists, in 2020 more than 50% of U.S. adults said they put off dental visits because of COVID-19 concerns. Almost a third said they were eating more sweets, nearly a quarter said they skipped brushing in the morning, and nearly half flossed less or stopped altogether.
Couple that with the number of workers who are looking or considering looking for different jobs after the pandemic—estimated to be at least 25% or more of the workforce—and it’s easy to see how the availability and quality of an employer’s dental coverage could play an important role in improving employee retention.
Make Sure Your Dental Benefits Benefit Your Employees.
Workers notice when you make a positive change to the employee benefits they care about. It may be time to send your dental coverage for its own checkup. We’ve created a new dental benefit package that will be a win-win BOTH for you and your employees. Plus, you can save a combined 20% on the premiums for the next three years. (Offer good until December 31, 2021.) Get started today!