Archive for the ‘Dental’ Category

Reining in Runaway Healthcare Costs – A Dental Consumer Advocacy Approach

Recently, I have read a number of interesting and informative articles regarding the importance of Dental Hygiene as it relates to direct medical costs and health insurance premiums, as well as indirect costs due to absenteeism and lack of productivity.

For some time we have recognized the work related ramifications of health risk factors such as obesity, smoking, stress, poor diet, and inactivity.  We must now add neglected dental health to this list as a significant cause of acute and chronic illness, pain, poor diet, and eating habits, and physical and emotional distress.

Guardian Life Insurance commissioned a survey of 1000 US consumers in September of 2006.  They found that 89% of the participants in the dental coverage survey agreed that there is a connection between oral health and overall health.  A Swedish study published in July 2006 Journal of Periodontology suggests the direct relationship of loss of teeth to likelihood of heart attack.  A University of North Carolina study published in a 2007 issue of Blood Purification reports that elevated levels of antibodies to gum disease are directly associated to decreased levels of kidney function.  There is more than sufficient evidence to support the fact that oral infection is linked to heart disease and stroke, diabetes, pre-term birth, and respiratory diseases.

Periodontal disease is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.  Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without.  Periodontal disease is more common in people with diabetes and it is significant that 65% of deaths in people with diabetes are due to heart disease and stroke.

We want to hold down costs of health coverage for our employees and employer.  We advocate Wellness programs for our employees to help hold down costs of future healthcare.   It is time to accept the fact that participating in a group/voluntary dental plan combination will be a great factor in accomplishing this goal.  The cost of a very basic group dental policy will be minor compared to the overall cost of employee healthcare coverage.

Incorporating Dental Health Into a Wellness Program

This is a follow-up to “Reining in Runaway Healthcare Costs… a Dental Consumer Advocacy Approach,” and provides ideas that should be incorporated into your existing Wellness Program.

EDUCATION: People of ancient times believed that the stabbing pain of a toothache was caused by a toothworm. A folk cure was smearing honey on the infected tooth and waiting at night with tweezers to pluck out the toothworm…Times and cures have changed however the need for education is important if we are attempting to reduce our healthcare costs. The education needed in your Wellness Program should include both Prevention and Repair

Prevention of dental disease, decay or tooth loss begins with an employee’s desire to start a routine of brushing regularly, flossing and routine exams. Our employees often need to be reminded that having Periodontitus means they are twice as likely to suffer a fatal heart disease than people without. What is the primary prevention tool for Periodontitus- regular brushing and flossing our teeth.

Repair falls into either work needed to be performed by a dentist or simply working with the dental hygienist. The hygienist plays the most critical role of all in the prevention of dental disease. Regular cleanings promote healthy gums and prevents bone loss and decay. Hygienist check-ups also detect Oral Cancer-6th most common cancer with 40,000 new cases annually-9000 deaths.

Another issue that needs to be addressed in a wellness program is “Dental Fear”- the ADA study showed that over 50% of those studied have a fear of going to the dentist. We need to educate our employees that this dental phobia costs money for both the employee and employer-affects there social life and self-esteem. Why? Dental disease causes unsightly tooth loss, ruins your smile and is the leading cause of bad breath. In a majority of cases, a visit to your hygienist regularly eliminates the perceived costly and painful visits to the “dentist.”

Dental Disease is not only a disease of the mouth, but also a disease of the body. Not only does it drain your energy, it ends up dramatically lowering your body’s resistance to any other disease to which your employee may be exposed. When you look at dental disease in this way, you can no longer afford to not provide your employees with benefit protection and education to lower the cost of Healthcare for your organization.