When we changed our focus earlier this year from wellness to wellbeing, we shifted our conversations to a more holistic approach that focuses on all areas of employees’ lives. One area that’s finally getting some attention is dental health and its impact on our overall wellbeing.
Neglected dental hygiene can lead to a litany of health problems and costly procedures down the line, yet people often brush off regular cleanings. Over 90 percent of Americans over the age of 20 have had cavities at some point in their lives, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It may also come as a surprise that 27 percent of adults over 20 years old have untreated cavities. Adults and children alike need encouragement and reminders to maintain good dental hygiene, and your company’s wellness program is a good way to accomplish this.
There are many simple ways for employers to promote oral health by educating, providing dental benefits and integrating dental health into their wellness initiatives. Here are 10 ways that employers can incorporate dental wellness into a benefits plan:
1. Offer a rewards program: Offer incentive points or other rewards to those who get preventive dental exams and cleanings every six months. Extend the rewards to family members where possible to get an early start on preventative dental treatment.
2. Educate employees on healthy food choices: Identify foods in the vending machine and cafeteria with a sticker that indicates it’s a tooth- friendly option. Offer sugar-free gum options and fresh foods, like cheese sticks and fruits.
3. Offer water: Provide and promote drinking water for good oral health. One way to do this is to distribute water bottles and host a challenge around increasing hydration. Even better, don’t tempt employees with a free soda option.
4. Introduce dental providers: See if there is a mobile dentist option in your area. If not, offer a "Meet the Dentist or Hygienist" event. Finding a dentist you are comfortable with is difficult, and these options help open the door to new dentist/patient relationships.
5. Host a health fair: Include your dental partner in your annual health fair. People are also interested in services like teeth whitening, so consider raffling off a cosmetic service to draw people into seminar participation.
6. Identify health risks: When you talk about other wellness topics, like stress and nutrition, remind people about the impact of teeth grinding and food choices.
7. Send a newsletter: Tap into your health plans for free newsletters or toolkits on dental health. Anthem and Delta Dental come to mind as two providers that have ramped up these resources.
8. Offer reminders: Send dental exam reminder postcards and emails. Find out what percentage of employees have established a dentist - it may make sense to start with a basic campaign encouraging employees to select a dentist and get in for a first visit.
9. Encourage brushing: Provide space and supplies at work to encourage tooth brushing during the work day.
10. Create competition: Host fun activities, like a "Healthy Smile Selfie" or "Nominate a Smile" contest.
These are a few simple ways to kick-start your dental heath efforts at work. Many of our own clients are stepping up their promotion of good oral hygiene and its impact on overall health.