Employer-sponsored dental insurance can play an integral part in your employees’ health.
Regular dental exams detect issues before they become big problems. Dentists gain insight into patients’ overall health by looking at the health of the mouth, teeth and gums. In addition, dental problems also can affect overall health.
Mouths are full of bacteria. In a clean mouth, 1,000 to 100,000 bacteria live on each tooth surface. Daily brushing and flossing keeps bacteria levels down, but certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva is important because it washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth that might lead to disease. Those who do not clean their mouths regularly could be looking at serious disease and decay.
While your employees can practice good oral hygiene as a way to avoid disease, the importance of regular dental checkups and cleanings cannot be overstated. This is where dental insurance can help. Dental policies generally cover two preventive visits annually and a portion of the costs for preventive care, fillings, crowns, root canals and oral surgery. Some plans also cover orthodontics, realigning teeth and jaws; periodontics, the structures that support and surround the tooth; and prosthodontics, fitting dental prostheses.
Diseases and Conditions Influenced by Poor Oral Health
Here are a few of the conditions that can be detected with regular exams.
• Cardiovascular disease – While some researchers debate whether poor oral health can actually lead to heart disease, studies show that inflammation and infections caused by oral bacteria might be a factor in heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke.
• Endocarditis – Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and occurs when bacteria or other germs from one part of the body, including the mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in the heart.
• Glaucoma – Glaucoma occurs when normal fluid in the eye doesn’t drain properly. This creates pressure that damages the optic nerve, resulting in sight loss. Although there are a number of reasons why glaucoma occurs, including age, family history, racial background and medical conditions, such as diabetes, some researchers believe oral infections might trigger a series of events where the bacteria from an inflamed tooth or gums spreads to the optic nerve.
• Periodontitis – Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease and has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight, as well as increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Dental Insurance Options
Comprehensive health insurance benefits help small businesses attract top talent, and many employees expect it. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, about 50 percent of both small and large employers offer dental benefits.
Small businesses — those with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees — are not required to provide health care insurance coverage, including dental insurance. However, employees are increasingly depending on employers to provide health benefits.
The average cost of providing dental coverage for a small employer depends on the state and other factors. In California, for example, an employer pays $20 to $50 per person per month.
The American Dental Association estimates that individuals who do not have dental coverage pay approximately $370 per year out-of-pocket for annual exams, cleanings and X-rays.
If you are interested in providing dental insurance for your employees, here are some options:
• Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans require members to see dentists who are in-network to get discounts. They often are able to choose an out-of-network dentist, but their out-of-pocket costs may be higher. This is the most common type of dental insurance and often is referred to as “100-80-50” coverage. That means that the plan covers up to 100 percent of fees for cleanings and normal preventive care and usually up to 80 percent of the costs for basic services, such as restorative care like fillings and simple procedures. Coverage includes up to 50 percent of dental fees for major procedures like crowns and reconstructive bridges.
• Dental health maintenance organizations (DHMO) utilize a group of dental professionals who provide care for a more affordable premium.
• Group dental plans are similar to a membership buyers’ club. For a small annual fee, members have access to a network of dentists offering reduced fees.
• The Small Business Administration offers qualifying companies (25 or fewer full-time employees and average annual wages under $50,000) a small business tax credit when they pay 50 percent or more toward employees’ self-only health insurance premiums. While this discount does not apply to dental insurance, it may free up funds so employers may offer other benefits like Dental, Vision or Life insurance.
For information about providing dental for your employees, please contact us.