How much do employees really know about dental health? What delta dental has to say about employee dental care.

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Scott Woolridge published the article below calling out the results to a 2019 study provided by the Delta Dental Institute. The key items to note as a professional in the business of employee benefits, is that the benefit of having the benefit is only valuable if the employee uses it. Appointment through cbg | CONFIDENT provides support to inform and sell. Contact us for more information.

By Scott Wooldridge | February 19, 2020 at 10:20 AM

A 2019 CDC report found that one in four Americans have untreated tooth decay, which suggests that Americans are not getting the oral health care they need. 

A new white paper calls for providers, insurers and employers to do more to improve literacy around dental health. The paper by Delta Dental Institute finds that Americans generally know that good dental care is important for overall health, but that dental health outcomes are lagging behind other medical areas, and that a lack of literacy and social determinants are two areas that are impeding care.

The institute’s paper outlines suggestions for addressing the literacy gap, suggesting specific steps that stakeholders can take to improve oral health literacy.

“Knowledge is power when it comes to good oral health,” said Vivian Vasallo, executive director of the Delta Dental Institute. “This paper affirms the link between high health literacy and good health outcomes and provides an important road map for how dental health professionals, insurers, employers, and brokers can better empower Americans with the information they need to make more informed oral health decisions.”

An emphasis on better education and communication

The paper noted that 97 percent of Americans said they value oral health, and that other stakeholders such as providers and employers also have strong incentives to support good dental health practices. However, a 2019 CDC report found that one in four Americans have untreated tooth decay, which suggests that Americans are not getting the oral health care they need.

Better literacy on oral health will help individuals and families make better decisions about treatment and insurance coverage, the report said. For employer-based health insurance, better health literacy will help in planning and implementing compensation and benefits packages. It can also play a significant role in wellness initiatives.

One of the ideas put forth by the paper is promoting dental health homes, where a provider oversees a coordinated, comprehensive approach to an individual’s oral health. The paper said this approach will help the overall understanding of costs, quality, and social determinants of oral health care.

A role for insurers and employers

The paper noted that there are already resources for patients, providers, and employers that can help improve dental health literacy. It mentioned the American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website, which can supply employers and providers with materials on preventive care and the association between oral health and general health. The various stakeholders should further work to develop educational material that is accurate, easy to understand, and culturally appropriate, the paper added.

The white paper also calls on employer plans to “develop materials that clearly explain how to evaluate various dental insurance programs, including copayments and deductibles, and how to evaluate what program is best for an individual or family. Creating a dental insurance education program on how to assess and use one’s benefits would be novel and very useful to patients.”

Another area where there is room for improvement is in establishing care networks and better referral systems, the paper said. “As integration of health moves forward for patients with chronic diseases, patients who are pregnant, and for complex patients, health plans with developed referral networks between medical and dental professionals will be ready to implement [such referrals],” the white paper said. “Dental insurance companies could work with select employers to develop a referral network between physicians and dentists in larger population areas where providers may not have established networks. This could then lead to more opportunities for integrated care models for select populations.”

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