When you brush and floss, you’re doing more than whitening your teeth. You’re increasing your chances for a healthier future.
When you make those semi-annual trips for dental cleanings and exams, you’re not just preventing cavities. You may be preventing cancer or heart disease.
“We’re learning more and more how strong the connection is between dental and overall health,” said Chris Davis, vice president of ancillary services at Capital BlueCross. “It’s not just some theoretical thing. Accumulating and convincing data is increasingly clear: Poor oral care can cause serious problems.”
The research is rife with red flags:
- The Mayo Clinic reports that improper oral healthcare can raise the risk for certain cancers, infected heart linings, pneumonia, eating disorders, and arthritis.
- According to the American Dental Association, evidence suggests oral bacteria could be linked to heart disease, arterial blockages, and strokes.
- The National Institutes of Health connects chronic gum disease to poorer blood-sugar control in diabetics. It also links it to pregnancy problems, including premature deliveries.
- The American Academy of Periodontology says chronic gum disease nearly doubles a person’s chance to develop coronary artery disease.
- A 2019 study funded partly by Capital BlueCrossshowed higher rates of hospitalizations and emergency department visits for people who did not, or could not access preventive dental services.
“It makes sense when you think about it,” Davis said. “The mouth not only swarms with bacteria; it’s also the doorway to the rest of the body. Without proper oral care to keep that bacteria at bay, it can walk through that doorway and wreak havoc.”
Davis said there’s plenty employers can do to help prevent such bleak outcomes for their employees. Capital BlueCross, for example, uses a three-pronged approach to actively encourage employees to make the most of their dental coverage.
First, it offers a plan with low or no member cost-sharing for diagnostic and preventive services. The plan fully covers – no co-pays or deductibles – things like routine exams, cleanings, and bitewing x-rays. It also provides an additional oral exam for pregnant employees.
Second, Capital BlueCross integrates dental care into its overall wellness program by rewarding covered employees who get an oral exam. Incentives include contributions to health savings accounts and rewards cards.
Third, Capital BlueCross engages in ongoing communication and education about its dental plans. For Capital BlueCross staff, the company’s intranet site is a prime conduit for that information. For customer companies, Capital BlueCross provides a dental wellness awareness toolkit, with resources that explain the benefits of oral wellness.
Capital BlueCross has also been sensitive to the needs of dental patients during the pandemic. Through Dec. 31, BlueCross Dental – issued by Capital Advantage Assurance Company, a Capital BlueCross subsidiary — will continue to virtual consultations via phone or video conference at no member cost. Capital BlueCross began the program April 15, and is also waiving frequency limits for teledental appointments.
“These are all steps employers can take toward ensuring not just the dental health, but the total health, of their employees,” Davis said. “We understand more than ever how closely the two are linked. We do all we can to help everyone covered by our dental plans understand it, too, by keeping them informed – and by making it easy, affordable, and beneficial to use our coverage.”