How oral healthcare can help to boost staff wellbeing

This article is supplied by Denplan.

If you read nothing else, read this…

  • Periodontitis (gum disease) is the most common chronic disease in humans.
  • Giving staff access to dental healthcare can help to boost their general wellbeing.
  • Dental healthcare can be a key indicator in the detection and early diagnosis of many more serious illnesses.

In March, Denplan ran a roundtable session at Employee Benefits Connect, which considered the future of dental plans and how employers can move oral healthcare awareness higher up their corporate agenda.

We looked at how improved oral health can have a positive impact on employee wellbeing by considering the links between oral health and general wellbeing and the fact that dental is one of the few preventative benefits on the market. It helps employers to look after employee wellbeing before reactive intervention is needed.

We also considered the fact that dental healthcare is a tangible, usable benefit that can provide far greater return on investment for employers if it is engaged with effectively. We also looked at how valued dental care is by staff and employers’ decision-makers. 

Links to chronic disease

Periodontitis (gum disease) is the most common chronic disease in humans, with 43% of UK adults suffering from it, rising to 65% at age 60. This is not only causing a significant cost to the taxpayer, but is also completely avoidable with effective oral healthcare.

The disease is also a strong indicator of other, often chronic, health problems in adults, such as potential heart attack, kidney disease, diabetes and stroke. Despite this, dental insurance continues to be viewed as a standalone product, rather than part of an employer’s total healthcare benefits proposition.

Dental healthcare is one of the few preventative healthcare benefits open to employees, because benefits such as private medical insurance (PMI) are used to treat illness, rather than to help prevent it from occurring.

Giving staff access to dental healthcare encourages regular visits to a dentist and increases awareness of the benefits of good oral health and the wider impact on general wellbeing.

Implementing change

Communication is essential in promoting dental healthcare, and employers need to improve their efforts in communicating to staff the value of dentistry as a wider healthcare benefit.

By moving away from the perception that dentistry is focused solely on the mouth and educating staff about the wider benefits of being dentally fit, a dental plan becomes far more relevant to an employer’s overall health and wellbeing strategy.

According to YouGov’s 2014 Denplan Dental benefits survey, published in January 2014, 62% of employees without a dental plan would consider one if their employer offered it and 54% of staff think a dental plan is a tangible, usable benefit.

Plans can be inexpensive, too, with Denplan’s schemes starting at as little as £4 per employee per month.

Benefits review

It seems employees are not alone in their demand for dental benefits. The Denplan decision-makers survey, also published in January 2014, found that 46% of organisations reviewing their benefits are considering adding dental healthcare.

Also, 83% of employers with a dental plan recognise that they enhance employee wellbeing, and 68% think a dental plan helps to manage staff absence.

There is not only significant demand for dental benefits among employees and employers, but there is also a significant need to expand access to dental healthcare in the wider public health arena.

So why is it that dental healthcare continues to be treated as a separate entity from healthcare benefits?

When the evidence shows that dental healthcare can be a key indicator in the detection and early diagnosis of many more serious illnesses, surely it is time for employers to recognise that dental benefits should be used as a key preventative healthcare benefit, rather than a bolt-on for PMI.

Roger Matthews is chief dental officer at Denplan