Making the Connection

Oral Health Linked to Overall Health

in More Ways Than One Employers, especially small businesses, are always looking for ways to curb the skyrocketing costs of health care. Assurant Employee Benefits is looking the problem square in the mouth by emphasizing the connection between healthy mouths and healthy bodies, and how that can translate to lower health care costs for small businesses. As more links are drawn between certain dental problems and health issues elsewhere in the body – conditions that may go undetected otherwise – the case for offering a strong dental plan continues to grow.

The Body’s Bellwether
The mouth is a window into what’s going on in the rest of the human body, often serving as a helpful vantage point for detecting the early signs and symptoms of systemic disease. Here are some statistics employers can sink their teeth into:

  • Maintaining healthy teeth and gums reduces the risk for pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.1
  • Those with a history of gum disease have a 33 percent higher incidence of lung cancer.1
  • Gum disease has been linked to a 50 percent rise in pancreatic and kidney cancer risk and a 30 percent increase in blood cell cancers.1

Early detection of symptoms through dental exams can help patients and providers find health problems earlier and may help treat the condition sooner, before the condition reaches threatening and costly stages.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, there is an association between periodontal diseases and other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.2 They say treating inflammation may help manage periodontal diseases and also may help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions.

“While in many cases, the nature of this link still isn’t clear, what is certain is that the condition of the mouth is closely tied to overall physical health,” said Dr. Polly Galbraith, chief medical officer for Assurant Employee Benefits. “Healthy mouths can lead to better overall health, fewer sick days and lower health care costs.”

Reasons to Smile

Clearly, it makes sound financial sense for small businesses to add or improve dental plans in their benefits packages. Assurant Employee Benefits adds even more good reasons. The Lifetime of Smiles® program expands many of our dental plans to include more of the benefits that members are asking for, benefits that can also contribute to lower health care costs:

  • Four cleanings per year to help prevent gum disease (coverage up to four periodontal cleanings in a 12-month period).3,4,5
  • Posterior tooth-colored fillings, preferred by many dentists and their patients.
  • Brush biopsies to help with early detection of oral cancer. • Genetic testing to help identify individuals who are at genetic risk for gum disease.5
  • Periochips to control bacteria and reduce the size of periodontal pockets.4,5
  • Dental healthcare discounts on Xylitol products clinically proven to help reduce cavities.
  • Online Dental Health Center, a trusted resource that offers members the most up-to-date information available on preventive dental care.

As more information on the link between dental and general health continues to emerge, one fact should never be ignored: Employees with dental insurance go to the dentist more often. And dental visits offer more chances to detect health problems before they worsen. If your small business groups are looking for help to curb the costs of health insurance – and, frankly, who isn’t – make sure they have a good dental plan in place. l

1Journal of Periodontology, January 2011.
2American Academy of Periodontology – Website accessed June 3, 2011
3Dental prophylaxis cleaning is limited to one time in any 6-month period and periodontal maintenance procedure is limited to one in any 3-month period. Total number of combined dental prophylaxis cleanings and periodontal maintenance procedures cannot exceed four in a 12-month period.
4Classification of services varies by plan design.
5Not available at this time in MT, NH, NY and VT

This article is provided for informational purposes only. Please contact your attorney and/or accountant to determine if this information may affect your business. © 2015 GHB Insurance

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