Importance of Dental Health and Why Employers Should Care

Posted by Victoria Bond on Apr 12, 2018 10:16:22 AM

It may come as a surprise, but dental health can have huge consequences for individuals and businesses alike.

Did you know that about 4.15 million working days are lost every year because of dental visits or dental sick-days? Although dental health is extremely important for quality of life, it isn’t covered under Canada’s universal health care.

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As a result, 32% of Canadians have no dental insurance, 16% decide not to receive their full recommended treatment because of the cost of care, and 17% avoid seeing a dental professional completely!

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Keep your office happy, productive, and smiling bright by brushing up on the importance of dental health.

How Dental Health Affects Overall Health

Because dental health is also a reflection of overall well being, poor oral care can go hand in hand with serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, osteoporosis, and pregnancy and fertility problems.

Furthermore, employees who don’t have coverage can experience serious wellness issues, including problems with sleep or speech, aching teeth or gums, trouble eating certain foods, embarrassment about their teeth or mouth, and emotional distress. Others may be forced to pay for procedures they can’t really afford because their quality of life has become so poor.

The Solution? Offer Employees Comprehensive Dental Insurance

As an employer, you are in the perfect position to ensure your employees’ oral wellness is protected, and a comprehensive dental plan is a great place to start. There are a range of different options available to consider:

  • Basic coverage: includes teeth cleaning, regular check ups, gum care, and repairs such as fillings. Reimbursement percentage is usually between 70 - 100%, with 80% being the most common. This type of coverage is appreciated by employees of all ages.
  • Major coverage: combined with basic coverage, major restorative care includes crowns and bridges. Reimbursement is usually limited to 50% of the cost based on the provincial fee guide of the employee’s residence. Major restorative care is more heavily used by employees as they enter their forties.
  • Orthodontic coverage: this coverage is also combined with basic and major coverage. It covers the cost of braces and other orthodontic appliances up to a lifetime maximum. Historically, these types of benefits have been primarily provided to children, but with the increased popularity of “Invisalign”, more and more adults are spending time in the orthodontist’s chair.

No matter which plan you choose, remember that prevention is key. By visiting the dentist for regular cleanings and scalings, employees can greatly reduce their risk of experiencing a health-related emergency. With their oral health in check, they’ll also take fewer sick days and be more productive and focused at work.

Top 4 Dental Health Tips to Reduce Oral Emergencies

Another way to help your team is by minimizing any lifestyle factors that lead to poor oral wellbeing. Get started by by introducing an employee wellness program or by addressing these key areas:

1. Stress Less to Protect Teeth and Enamel

Helping staff manage stress is key to protecting their dental health. Stress can lead to teeth grinding and jaw clenching, both of which damage teeth and enamel. And because these behaviours often occur during sleep, people may not even be aware they are doing them!

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To make matters worse, stress also decreases immune system function, increasing the chance of an oral infection. Keep staff happy and healthy by checking in regularly about their stress levels and removing excess tasks from their plates if needed.

Consider sharing some of the benefits of mindfulness meditation with your team or talking to an employee benefits advisor about bringing in a stress reduction program.

2. Sleep More to Reduce the Risk of Periodontal Disease

It might come as a surprise, but there is a strong connection between lack of sleep and poor oral health. In fact, in one well-known Japanese study from Osaka University, lack of sleep was found to be the second highest risk factor for periodontal disease! According to the study, people who received 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night showed less gum disease than those who had less than 6 hours.

As an employer, encourage your team to maintain a good work-life balance and ensure they have enough down time. Keep in mind that stress and sleep are strongly linked, and consider what else you can do to help them stay calm on the job.

3. Snack Smarter by Reducing Sugar Consumption

As many of us know, a “sweet tooth” can be devastating for oral health. Encourage staff to limit or avoid alcohol, sugary drinks and snacks, and highly processed foods.

Tip: provide healthy office snacks so that they aren’t tempted to munch on sugar at work.

4. Lower Gum Disease Risk by Quitting Smoking

In addition to causing almost 75% of gum disease, smoking can lead to tooth loss and a variety of cancers. You can help employees kick this deadly habit with strong education and support programs. Before introducing a program, make sure you speak with an employee benefits advisor to find the right fit for your team.

Conclusion

As you can see, oral wellness is much more important than you might think. Not only can poor dental health increase employees’ financial and emotional stress, it can also reduce overall quality of life. If staff are unable to focus or come to work because of oral health issues, the consequences for your company can be expensive.

Make sure you provide a strong dental benefits plan and educate your team on making positive lifestyle choices. With some simple changes, you’ll be seeing bright, healthy smiles in no time!

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