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Take good care of your employees’ dental health

Girl in dental chair smiling

Although a healthy smile may not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering an employee’s wellbeing, the mouth actually is the doorway to whole-person health. As employers it can be easy to overlook dental health and pass it off as a ‘minor’ topic but the way an employee speaks, smiles and even breathes can all be affected by their oral health or indicate larger health concerns. You can help stop the progression of certain health issues, increase productivity and help your employees be happier by addressing their dental health needs.

Why is dental health important to overall health?

Employees are one of a company’s most valuable assets. Their health can have a direct impact on a business, affecting how an organization is equipped to tackle challenges and progress. Employees that are confident and happy are more likely to perform effectively and be productive. Poor oral health costs the US economy approximately $45 billion dollars per year in lost productivity to pain or missed workdays due to untreated dental issues, such as toothache or infection. Keeping your employees’ teeth healthy can help reduce this number as well as overall medical care costs, as poor dental health can be associated with other physical or psychosocial issues. For example, poor dental health or missing teeth can contribute to an employee’s personal insecurities that may add stress to daily interactions. Science has proven when people have cavities, gum disease and other dental issues it can negatively impact their heart. Additionally, there are a plethora of other health issues that can stem from poor dental health, like pregnancy complications and pneumonia. Besides affecting the heart, poor dental health can affect other important organs. Studies have shown that people with gum disease or tooth loss have evidence of shrinkage within the hippocampus, a brain area essential for memory.

For employers who don’t yet have a dental plan for their employees, or are looking into other options, be sure to look for a high-quality dental plan that is also inexpensive for your staff. Make sure that you are aware of the oral health requirements of your staff before investing in a plan. Because your employees are diverse in terms of age, ethnicity and gender, different populations will most likely require dental healthcare options that you may not have considered. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health, this can help you focus your search and benefit a wide range of employees.

What can lead to poor dental health?

Many oral health conditions are preventable and can be treated in their early stages. But it is important to be aware of what can affect oral health:

  • Sugar Consumption: People who consume sugar daily are more likely to develop cavities. Cavities can worsen over time causing missing teeth and possible tooth removal. Sugary and sugar-sweetened foods or alcoholic beverages are especially damaging to teeth.
  • Pregnancy: Many people don’t know that pregnancy can make women more prone to gum disease and cavities. Oral health is an important part of prenatal care.
  • Smoking Habits: Cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products can lead to gum disease, oral cancer and other oral health issues.

 A whole person approach to dental health

The demands of our employees continue to evolve, and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield has adapted by focusing on a range of interrelated health needs. Through our Whole-Person Approach to healthcare, we place a high priority on treating all potential health-related issues, including dental health. We also provide our members options like health education programs so individuals are aware of how to handle their health difficulties and where they can go for support. By addressing the issues that affect our members’ physical and emotional health, we are giving them the tools they need to maintain excellent health both at home and in the workplace.

Dr. Mark Jansen

Vice President, Chief Medical Officer

Image of Dr. Jansen

Mark T. Jansen, M.D., joined Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield in July of 2019. He serves as vice president and chief medical officer for Arkansas Blue Cross. Dr. Jansen, who has been board-certified in Family Medicine since 1984, spent 29 years as a primary care physician in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, before joining the UAMS faculty in 2013. Most recently he served as chief medical officer for Regional Programs for the UAMS Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) program. He is a member of the American Academy of Family Practice and Arkansas Medical Society. In April 2016, Dr. Jansen was invested as the inaugural recipient of the Arkansas Blue Cross George K. Mitchell, M.D., Endowed Chair in Primary Care. In 2015, he was named Teacher of the Year in the UAMS Department of Family & Preventive Medicine.