(by Larry F. Hill)
In 2018, between 27% and 56% of U.S. workers had access to dental coverage (depending on job and region). Yet, the most recent study of oral health by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED) ranks U.S. dental health 9th, below Mexico and ahead of France. (The top five were Denmark, Germany, Finland, UK and Finland.) Which begs the question: Can employer-based dental coverage help play a role in improving U.S. dental health?
Why Your Employees’ Dental Health Matters:
As an HR leader, of course you care about all aspects of your employer-based health coverage. While dental benefits don’t get the same attention as medical benefits, they can be as important to your company as they are to your employees.
Good dental coverage keeps your employee benefits competitive. Dental benefits have become more valuable to employees over time. In fact, 82% of workers called dental coverage “very important,” while 54% saw it as a “must-have” in a 2018 study, up from 67% who called dental coverage important in 2014.
And employers are listening, with 97% of employers (small, large and in-between) offering some kind of dental benefits as part of their health plans, according to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM).
Dental health and overall health are connected. Recent studies show a link between poor dental health and a variety of serious medical conditions, including heart and cardiovascular issues, problems during pregnancy and childbirth, and mortality from multiple causes. Not to mention ongoing issues like muscle loss as older people lose teeth and the ability to chew properly. Regular dental care can also help detect medical conditions like diabetes that can contribute to dental health issues.
Of course, all the above can also have a direct impact on your company’s overall healthcare costs.
The Quality of Your Employee Dental Benefits Can Make all the Difference.
Dental coverage that’s never used helps no one. Employer-based health plans come in all shapes and sizes. The relatively low dental coverage premiums are attractive, but employees often suffer sticker shock when trying to use their dental benefits.
This can result in negative perceptions of both the plan and the company, as well as reluctance to use the plan in the future. The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) reports a quarter of U.S. adults don’t see a dentist even once a year, and 40% have delayed or skipped recommended treatments or procedures because they can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs.
Companies that want to offer dental benefits but choose plans that don’t offer any real financial relief to employees who enroll in them are missing the forest for the trees. It doesn’t take much to leave a bad taste in employees’ mouths if they feel they were misled about the value of their employee benefits, no matter how low the premiums were.
This year presents a unique window of opportunity for quality dental benefits. Along with all its other impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on people’s dental health, too. A study conducted at the end of 2020 showed that COVID concerns caused more than half of adults in the U.S. to postpone professional dental care. Good dental hygiene and habits also took a hit as people increased their consumption of sweets and either skipped or reduced their brushing and flossing.
As the pandemic continues to subside, these people are and will continue seeking to make up for those missed appointments, treatments, and tests—and will look to their dental benefits to help. On top of that, it’s estimated a quarter or more of the U.S. workforce is actively considering whether to change jobs.
That means this fall during annual enrollment, employer-based dental coverage with high quality plan designs can not only help companies attract and retain workers, but may also help improve overall dental health in the U.S.
Make Sure You’re Offering Dental Benefits That Show a Difference.
There’s no time like the present to give your dental plan a checkup. Our exclusive new package of dental coverage can help you improve employees’ dental health as well as their perceptions of your employee benefits, plus positively impact company costs and retention. Plus, you can save a combined 20% on the premiums for the next three years. (Offer good until December 31, 2021.) Get started today!