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  • Writer's pictureMark Roberts

Happy Employees Smile a lot More

One of the best ways employers have to hire and retain good talent is to offer great benefits to their employees. One key element in that overall suite of services is dental insurance which shows no sign of lessening in importance, regardless of workforce trends changing as older employees retire and younger ones are hired. Surveys by the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) consistently indicate that 75% of employees feel that it is very important that their employer provides dental coverage, and this is true of employees of every age.

As open enrollment season for employees begins to heat up this month and especially in the 4th quarter this year, dental benefits could help a small company be more appealing than its peer organizations. LIMRA, a research, consulting and professional development association of insurance and financial services companies, indicates by its studies that a minor percentage of small employers with less than 20 employees offer dental to their workers. As an employer, there’s no federal law that says you must offer dental insurance to your employees–but should you?

Regular preventive dental care, paired with the proper daily oral health routines, can have a major impact on overall health. Employees value staying healthy, and employers also should value their health. While regular preventive cleanings may cause employees to be temporarily out of the office for a brief time during the day, they can prevent lengthier procedures and oral pain.

Dental pain and increased expenses due to extensive dental care from neglect both impact employee morale, productivity and attendance. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 164 million hours of work are lost in the U.S. each year due to oral health problems or dental visits. According to a MetLife study, a third of workers admitted their work suffered when they had to delay needed dental care.

Skipping dental visits not only leads to oral health issues, but can have more serious complications such as endocarditis and cardiovascular disease. More than 70% of working adults with dental insurance visit the dentist at least once a year, compared to only 40% of the uninsured. In addition to attracting jobseekers, an employer’s benefit package can encourage employees to stay put. According to a UNUM survey, more than half of employees (56%) say they are more likely to stay with their current employer because of its benefits package.

Dental should be a primary component to maintain the health and wellness of employees. If one of your employees is suffering from a toothache but won’t go to the dentist because they don’t have dental insurance, there’s a chance their productivity is going to take a hit. They might call in sick more often (increased absenteeism), be distracted by the pain when they’re in the office (also known as presenteeism - at work, but not really working), or potentially have to take a significant or extended period of time off if the untreated tooth turns into a more complicated or serious health issue.

For many people, getting dental insurance through an employer makes sense. Employers get lower group rates because they are buying benefits for many employees at once. Also, these plans often include more coverage, and the employer frequently pays a portion of the costs. However, based on the company's budget, dental insurance may be positioned as a voluntary cost as a pass through expense to employees.

The NADP has also discovered that people are willing to pay higher monthly premiums in order to secure these benefits. Employers should keep this in mind when choosing dental plans for their businesses. Additionally, employers who offer voluntary dental benefits are attractive to employees as premium payments can be deducted through payroll. Rates through a group plan can be more competitive than individual plans. The net effect is helping employees make the best choices for themselves and their families, while helping control their out-of-pocket costs. In the process, employers are finding that offering dental insurance and making it easily accessible is a decision that is making everyone smile.

Your commitment to your employees’ health and wellbeing as an employer is critical to having a successful business with happy or content employees who end up smiling more. By offering comprehensive benefit packages including dental insurance, you as an employer can differentiate yourself during the hiring process to attract jobseekers and retain key members of your workforce. There’s no doubt employees want dental insurance. According to Lincoln Financial Group, more than half of those surveyed say it is a “must-have,” and a total of 82% of employees describe dental as “very important."

The stress of not having access to dental insurance for themselves and/or their families can have a negative impact on your employees’ mental health as well. When deciding whether or not to offer these benefits, it’s important to look at the big picture and see employee health and wellness from a holistic standpoint. Beyond offering health insurance for medical needs, consider providing options for dental benefits that helps employees in both the short and long term aspects of their health plan. The perceived value of overall benefits, including dental, heavily influence employee job satisfaction and the company’s brand as a desirable employer.

It’s not just about having access to a frequent dentist or orthodontic checkups. It comes down to how employers are willing to treat their workers. Do companies exhibit a sense of understanding and compassion to help advance their employees' lifestyles and health conditions. There truly should be no limit to how much time and effort employers should spend when establishing a group dental insurance policy. It’s simple, the better the benefits, the more inclined some workers may be to stay in their current position and remain loyal towards their employer.

Building a better work environment is not only about the physical tools or resources employers offer their workers, but also how employee wellbeing is taken into consideration. Employee stress and lack of job satisfaction does not only affect the mental health and wellbeing of employees, but these factors also costs employers more money. By not offering dental insurance is perhaps one of the main reasons some employees may feel that their employers aren’t doing enough to cater to their needs.

Although many employees at both big and small companies have access to dental benefits, there is still a huge number of people who do not have them. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Employee Benefits Summary, around 40% of private employees and 60% of state and local workers currently have access to dental care benefits. That leaves a lot of employees who are without affordable dental care through employers. I am guessing those workers are not smiling as much.

Are your dental benefits offerings meeting your employees’ expectations? If not, make 2022 and 2023 the years you improve the coverage you offer to help your employees smile a lot more. I can provide affordable options through a variety of dental plan partners. Check out my dental plan partners on my website: . Contact me for a quote or a conversation about how I can help your company and employees with dental benefits.

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