Companies That Encourage Checkups See Lower Dental Costs

Dentistry Today


Companies that encourage their employees to use their dental benefits to visit the dentist every six months for checkups will see fewer claims for major and restorative work, resulting in lower premiums for employers and reduced out-of-pocket costs for employees, according to the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.

In an analysis of dental claims data from 2011 to 2017, Guardian categorized employer groups by high preventive utilization and low preventive utilization. The high preventive utilization employers spent 39% more on preventive care, but 86% less on major and restorative dental services. As a result, they had 16% lower preventive and major dental claims costs than the low preventive utilization employers.

“Encouraging employees to regularly visit their dentists not only promotes employee wellness, it can save a company money when it comes time to renew their group policy,” said Marc Costantini, executive vice president of group and worksite markets at Guardian. “When insurers see claim costs on big-ticket items go down, there is an opportunity to lower premiums for employers and their employees.”

Access to dental coverage encourages good oral health and other positive benefits for employees, Guardian also notes. For example, regular trips to the dentist can aid in the early detection of potentially serious medical conditions, as more than 90% of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.

“Good oral health is linked to positive overall health and self-esteem,” said Randi Tillman, DMD, MBA, chief dental officer at Guardian. “Regular dental visits can help with certain health needs including managing diabetes, lowering heart disease risk, and contributing to a healthy pregnancy.”

Despite these benefits, more than one in four adults fail to go to the dentist once a year, Guardian says. Millennials are among the least likely to go to the dentist twice a year, primarily due to cost among many other reasons. Also, four in 10 adults have delayed recommended procedures and skipped exams, x-rays, and tests in the past year due to higher out-of-pocket costs.

Still, 34% of those polled said their oral health was good. Also, 31% called it very good, 12% said they had excellent oral health, and 17% said it was fair. Only 5% said they had poor oral health. And while 54% of those polled saw their dentist twice a year, 19% went once a year, 12% went once in two or three years, and 15% have only seen their dentist once in four years or more.

Guardian believes that these findings indicate how oral health is largely misunderstood and easily taken for granted. These attitudes also are detrimental to patients’ well-being and can lead to increased out-of-pocket expenses to cover restorative procedures. To increase their employees’ use of preventive care, Guardian suggests that employers should: 

  • Meet their industry standards for preventive care benefits
  • Expand their plan’s definition of preventive services
  • Incentivize use of in-network providers
  • Enhance plan member communication

Conducted in the spring of 2017, Guardian’s Fifth Annual Workplace Benefits Study comprised one online poll of 2,000 benefits decision-makers and another of 1,700 working Americans.

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