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Discount Dental Plans and Employee Health

Nicole Ropiza

A woman smiling and showing her teeth in a dentist's mirror.

Studies and word-of-mouth in recent years have brought much needed attention to the connection between dental care and a person’s overall health. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90 percent of all systematic diseases have oral health symptoms. Poor or lacking dental health may have negative effects on a range of diseases and conditions, including diabetes, osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke, pregnancy and pre-term birth weights.

In addition, a report in Dental Health Magazine from February 2011 goes on to read, “People with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without gum disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.”

For those who religiously keep up with their dental hygiene ; brushing twice daily, flossing daily and scheduling semi-annual dental checkups, the preventive care and daily dental hygiene habits can help them avoid some major out-of-pocket dental expenses tomorrow.

Proper dental care can also help keep employees at work. Considering that lost work due to dental problems equates to 164 million hours of employee productivity each year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But sometimes, dental health is not as simple as just brushing, flossing, chewing sugarless gum and so on. You might need a cavity filling or root canal and our children might need braces. And, sometimes our mouth is a major investment not covered by employer-sponsored insurance plans.

Meanwhile, the cost of dental care procedures is rising faster than you can say “commission.”

According to a 2010 report from Pew Center on the States, the total annual spending for dental care is expected to increase 58 percent, from $101.9 billion to $161.4 billion, through 2018. Coincidentally, a 2009 poll by Harris Interactive and Health Day found that 50 percent of uninsured Americans skipped necessary dental care visits due to financial burdens.

The fast increase in dental costs and lack of dental coverage has prompted some workers to get creative with their dental care budgets. A few money saving dental care solutions that have hit the newscycle in recent years include: visiting local university dental schools for dental care at a fraction of the cost; heading overseas for a dental vacation and discount dental work in countries like Costa Rica and Tijuana; and negotiating with dentists to find a discount wherever possible.

Employees More Conscious of Employer Dental Benefits

Other media reports in recent years, including the New York Times, “How to manage dental costs, with or without insurance” and BankRate.com, “Dental insurance or discount plan,” have brought attention to the struggle against high dental expenses and the growing gap between employers and dental benefits.

These days, the reality is that many employer-offered health care plans do not include dental coverage or offer it as a supplementary benefit. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 48 percent of workers have access to employer-offered dental plans, compared to the 74 percent of workers with access to similar medical coverage.

As many companies do not offer dental coverage and are considering insurance cuts in response to a questionable economy and newfound financial strategies, dental benefits are beginning to play a major role in employers attracting and retaining workers. Dental is the third most requested benefit after major medical insurance and retirement benefits, according to a report by LIMRA. And nearly 80 percent of workers participate in benefit programs if dental care is part of the program.

Giving employees an option and resources for dental plans is an investment for companies. Employees with dental benefits are more likely to take part in preventive dental care, contributing to their overall health and well-being. According to a recent survey by The Long Group, 83 percent of employees with an employer contributory dental plan visited the dentist twice or more a year.

Brush Up On Voluntary Discount Dental Plans

Some companies find employer-paid dental programs too expensive and not necessary to their employees overall health and well-being.

And while employers discuss how best to respond to cost challenges and the anticipated effects of health care reform, voluntary dental plans are becoming an alternative for companies to share with their employees and save on health care costs.

But, let’s say for instance “Company A” offers a mom of three a full-time job with a healthy base salary, halfway decent medical insurance, a 401k program to participate in and no dental insurance. The mom considers the offer and reviews another opportunity with “Company B,” which will provide everything that “Company A” will, as well as voluntary discount dental plans.

The mom weighs her options while considering one of her sons is going to need braces soon and she’s anticipating a cavity filling or two this year.

She decides to go with “Company B,” knowing that she will take advantage of the voluntary discount dental plans for her family and save money in the long-run versus paying out more of her salary. She also knows that she’ll be more productive at work without having to worry about how she is going to afford her son’s orthodontist bill, which can cost up to $7,000 without any benefits.

With voluntary discount dental plans, employees and families typically pay an annual membership fee that gives them access to discount dental dentists have agreed to offer at dental care services at discounted rates. Major providers, such as Aetna and Cigna, offer plans where savings can range from 10 to 60 percent on routine exams, x-rays and costly dental procedures.

Voluntary discount dental plans are not dental insurance. Employees and families typically pay an annual membership fee starting at $79.95 per year for individual employee and $129.95 per year for families. Plans also activate within three business days, without paperwork hassles or health restrictions.

Plans do not have annual limits and can be used as often as needed, which offers employees a choice and affordable alternative to dental insurance while they choose the plan that best fits their needs. Some plans can also be used for procedures such as cosmetic dentistry, and may include discounts on vision and prescription drugs.

As a solution for employees and employers, voluntary discount dental plans can help companies cut costs while providing workers with an option to manage necessary dental expenses. It also gives brokers an alternative to provide clients who want to cut dental benefits as a whole.

And the next time the sensitive topic of no help with employee dental care comes up for your client, they could say, “We do not provide employer-paid dental plans, however, you can join a voluntary discount dental plan with access to significant savings on dental care procedures for you and your family. And you have the flexibility of choosing an affordable plan without annual limits.”


 

About The Author

Nicole Ropiza is the broker/affiliate and group manager at DentalPlans.com. The leading online source for discount dental plans, DentalPlans.com connects individual, family and group members to significant savings on dental care procedures such as cleanings, braces, root canals and crowns. The company offers more than 30 of the leading regional and national discount dental plans with more than 100,000 participating dentist listings in combined networks across the country. For more information and to find a discount dental plan that fits your family’s needs, visit www.DentalPlans.com.

For more information about a turnkey sales solution for insurance brokers to fill the growing need for affordable dental care, visit www.DentalPlans.com or call 1-888-632-5353 choose option 5 for brokers and 6 for groups or email DPBrokers@DentalPlans.com.

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