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How employers can meet the evolving dental needs of their workforce | Guest post: Guardian

October 28, 2022
Rachel Alfred
Timer  Read Time: 5 minutes

The last few years have changed the priorities of workers, including how they value their employee benefits. Dental insurance is no exception to this re-prioritization. Ten times as many US adults said they value their dental benefits more now than before the pandemic.

By understanding consumer attitudes and behaviors around oral health care, employers can tailor their benefits offerings to better address their workforce’s preferences. Adjusting your organization’s dental benefits to meet the needs of employees may lead to higher dental insurance utilization rates and help to improve well-being for workers.

What do employees value most in their dental coverage?

Recent research from Guardian uncovered the top focuses for workplace dental benefits based on how employees ranked the importance of coverage features. When it comes to dental care, cost is a significant factor with 91% of working Americans saying that their top concern is coverage price. After cost, dental benefits that support oral health, such as additional annual visits for those with certain medical conditions were prioritized. Rounding out the top three was an employee preference for preventive dental coverage for children to be included in their insurance.

The dental benefit features that are in-demand

Within dental plans, certain features can be included to increase the value that employees find in their coverage. Diminishing deductibles were ranked as the number one enhancement desired in a dental plan. Fortunately, they offer advantages for both employees and employers. Diminishing deductibles help employees save money in the long term and build worker loyalty and retention, which is increasingly important for organizations, especially those with lean HR departments who rank retention as their top priority.

The concept of a diminishing deductible has been used in the auto industry for quite some time but is relatively new to dental benefits. When it comes to dental insurance, employees are rewarded with a lower annual deductible when their employer maintains an uninterrupted relationship with the insurance carrier, and they stay with their dental plan. Diminishing deductibles are worth considering as a dental plan enhancement to save money over time, reward consistent dental care and encourage loyalty.

Another important feature of dental insurance that employees value focuses on coverage for kids. Parents prioritize their children’s oral health, with 9 in 10 saying that their children’s oral health is important, making coverage for children’s dental care a valuable benefit. Plans that include increased preventive dental care for kids can help parents establish good oral health habits for their children. Building early habits of preventive care can help children not only have healthier teeth but also perform better in school. According to the CDC, children who have poor oral health miss school more often and receive lower grades.

Over the past few years, employees have grown accustomed to having increasingly sophisticated health equipment and services available from the comfort of their home – and the same carries over into their dental care preferences. Feelings towards teledentistry have evolved because of the pandemic.

Guardian research shows that nearly 40% of employees say that they see value in teledentistry overall, while numbers are even higher for specific use cases like consultations for future dental work, emergencies and for dental care while traveling.

Improving the well-being of your workforce

Dental hygiene is not only connected to oral health but also overall health. Maintaining proper oral health can help control or lessen risks connected to heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy and other conditions. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, respiratory ailments and even Alzheimer’s disease. Although tooth decay is one of the most prevalent diseases in America, it’s left untreated in 1 in 5 American adults.

Dental health also has an impact on mental health. It can affect self-esteem as healthy teeth and gums are important to how people feel about themselves. When someone has poor oral health, their quality of life may suffer because they’re embarrassed by their teeth, leading to avoiding activities like shared dinners and social events. It may even be responsible for social anxiety.

How employers can help to improve dental hygiene

While more than 8 in 10 adults say oral health is important to them, only about half of all adults recognize the important connection between oral health and overall health and wellness. So, while dental benefits can be used to help improve both oral and overall health, clear communication around these benefits and the importance of preventive care will go a long way in inspiring benefit utilization and healthy dental hygiene habits. Employers can play a key role by making dental hygiene resources available to their workers, such as an engaging oral health quiz that educates on dental hygiene fundamentals.

Also, when employers are choosing benefits options, they should be conscious of working with insurance companies that offer dental coverage in simple, jargon-free language so that employees are able to better understand what’s available to them.

Dental insurance that saves employees money, improves their overall health and wellness, and provides coverage for children are the three main focuses of employees’ dental insurance preferences. Considering these new enhancements will help ensure that benefits offerings are aligned with their goals and are more likely to be used.


Want to Learn More?

Learn more about dental insurance trends around oral health care that will help your organization to strategically tailor benefits offerings to better address the evolving needs of its workforce.

*Unless otherwise noted, all sources are from Dental fundamentals: In-demand dental benefits that support well-being, Guardian, 2022

Jill Purcell is Head of Dental and Vision Products at Guardian where she leads a team of Product Managers responsible for developing new dental and vision products, as well as maintaining current product offering through training, marketing, and subject matter expertise.

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