Justin Donald Leader

Benefits Professional
  • The Tooth on Dental

    Oct 08, 2015

by Justin Leader


The Tooth, the Whole Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth.

“I thrill when I drill a bicuspid.”  – Dr. Orin Scrivello (Steve Martin) from Little Shop of Horrors.

Dental anxiety and phobia are extremely common. It has been estimated that 9% to 15% of Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear. That’s about 30 million to 40 million people. In a survey by the British Dental Health Foundation, 36% of those who didn’t see a dentist regularly said that fear was the main reason.

Earlier this year I avoided a trip to the dentist for what was initially mild tooth pain.  In a matter of 72 hours my face quickly ballooned to the size of Dizzy Gillespie blowing a trumpet.  What could have been treated had I gone to the Dentist at the first sign of trouble turned into an Abscessed Tooth.  Altogether, and partly due to my stubbornness as well as fear of dental work, I lost almost 40 hours of productivity in the course of a week.   The pain of an Abscessed Tooth I wish upon no one.

Those of us in Human Resources, Benefits and Insurance have a unique job in providing what many see as a very valuable and important benefit for employees, spouses and dependents; no matter how much of a nightmare it is for some employees!  Simply put, having access to an in-network dentist should be the least of employee’s worries as they go to the dentist.  Provider networks are just one of many building blocks that determine the value of a dental benefit plan.  The others including self-funded vs fully-insured, plan design, quality, claims management, and promotion of overall employee health.

As we are in the midst of “Open-Enrollment” season do not miss an opportunity to communicate some of the great benefits of providing a dental plan not only to employees but to the C-suite as well.

  • Good oral health translates into good overall health.  According to Oral Diagnosis, Oral Medicine and Treatment Planning.  “Regular oral health exams can help detect significant medical conditions before they become serious, as more than 120 diseases can cause specific signs and symptoms in and around the mouth and jaw.”
  • More than 75 percent of oral cancers can be identified either visually or through palpation in a comprehensive oral exam. According to the Oral Health Foundation, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with oral cancer every hour. When detected early, oral cancer has an 80-90 percent cure rate, compared with only 50 percent if found late.
  • The Surgeon General reports that 51 million school hours are missed each year because of dental-related illnesses. Among adults, more than 164 million work hours are lost each year because of dental problems.

These are just a few of the possible benefits in offering a dental plan. An effective communication and education strategy should help to alleviate employee fear if not allow for a better understanding of the importance of dental care. In an era where benefits are shifting both in cost as well as breadth of offering, dental is still seen as a staple of any robust and competitive plan.

Justin Leader, Vice President of Business Development at Special Risk Insurance Services, Inc assists multi-national organizations regarding corporate duty of care and travel benefits.  Special Risk is an insurance brokerage firm that focuses on helping employer clients select and administer employee benefit plans.