A dental plan can bring a broad range of benefits to both organisations and their workforces, says Colin Perry from Denplan

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When it comes to employee engagement, dental plans have a special place in a benefits package. Unlike pensions, which might not be accessed for years, and products such as medical insurance and life assurance, where few people would actually want to make a claim, all employees need to visit the dentist at least once every two years.

With everyone able to use a dental plan, this makes them a highly prized benefit. This was shown in our Health and wellbeing benefits survey 2015, where 56% of employees without a dental plan said they’d appreciate access to one as part of their benefits package. The survey also found that more than 90% of employers who offer a dental plan believe it enhances employee wellbeing and shows they care about their staff.

FINANCIAL BONUS

The financial benefits are a big plus for many employees. An NHS check-up costs £18.80 and, if an employee needs more work or they have a private dentist, they can expect to pay more. A dental plan’s ability to shield them from a large bill is highly appreciated by employees.

As well as having their bills taken care of for treatment covered by their plans, employees may also be able to access discounts on dentistry not on their benefit schedule. As an example, through Denplan’s Discount Network, employees can access around 2,000 dentists offering discounts to those with a plan. This could even include cosmetic treatment such as teeth whitening and orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth.

Plans can also be extended to cover partners and kids but also elderly relatives. For example through Denplan’s eldercare cover, employees can extend their dental plan to up to four of their older relatives. As UK demographics shift, being able to support loved ones of all ages will become increasingly important to employees.

And, even where a plan is offered on a voluntary basis, the economies of scale achieved through bulk buying mean premiums are lower than if an employee had sourced the plan themselves.

MORE THAN JUST TEETH AND GUMS

As well as helping employees and their families look after their teeth and gums, a dental plan can also help them engage more generally with health. A regular check-up enables a dentist to spot the early signs of all sorts of serious health conditions.

Top of the list is mouth cancer. Although this is not such a widely publicised cancer, each year in the UK it takes more lives than testicular and cervical cancer combined. The number of cases is on the increase too. In 2012 there were 7,300 cases reported in the UK, up from 4,500 in 2002 (1).

But spotting mouth cancer early can significantly improve the chances of survival. For example, although more than 2,000 die as a result of mouth cancer in the UK every year, early detection results in a survival outcome improving from 50% to 90%.

Looking after your teeth by having a regular check-up can reduce your risk of all sorts of other illnesses too. Research has found a link between poor dental hygiene and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke (3), pancreatic cancer (4) and diabetes (3), and it has even been linked with problems in pregnancy and dementia. Helping to prevent all these problems and promote a good level of health and wellbeing makes it a valuable benefit.

INCREASING ENGAGEMENT

While a dental plan can help employees engage with their health and wellbeing, there are ways to increase this interest. Although employees will remember their dental plan when they visit their dentist, it pays to promote it more than once a year when employees select their benefits.

Using health and wellbeing campaigns throughout the year can remind them of the importance of a trip to the dentist and the value of the benefit on offer. For example, campaigns could focus on events such as Mouth Cancer Action Month or on health issues such as how stress can lead to teeth grinding at night, resulting in a sore jaw and constant headaches. Often a dental insurer will be able to provide support with these campaigns.

Finding ways to promote the dental plan will encourage employees to take out cover and enjoy the benefits it brings. After all, a regular trip to the dentist offers much broader healthcare benefits than just having a great smile.

(1) http://www.healthmatters.org.uk/public-health/mouth-cancer-now-the-tenth-most-common-cancerin-men/

(2) http://www.mouthcancer.org/facts-figures/

(3) http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/dentalhealth/Pages/gum-disease-and-overall-health.aspx

(4) http://www.emaxhealth.com/1506/gum-disease-linked-increased-risk-pancreatic-cancer

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