One in three Americans will develop diabetes at some point in their lifetime if current trends continue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chances are a significant number of your clients’ employees are — or will be — seriously affected by the disease.

The estimated annual cost of diabetes in the U.S. is more than $327 billion, meaning that almost one in four dollars spent on health care is used to care for people with diabetes. The estimated cost in lost productivity alone is $90 billion. And research shows that the higher health care spending associated with diabetes actually begins well before diagnosis.

Fortunately, early screening and detection can help delay or even prevent complications from diabetes. Evidence suggests that periodontal changes are the first clinical manifestation of the condition. Regular dental check-ups can therefore play a crucial role in reducing the devastating toll of diabetes.

November is American Diabetes Month, so it’s the perfect time to think about how you can help your clients’ employees in the fight against diabetes.

The role of oral health care in diabetes

Many of your clients’ employees with diabetes probably aren’t even aware that they have the disease. As many as 20% of people who have diabetes don’t know they do, according to the CDC, and most with prediabetes (84%) are unaware of their condition.

Diabetes causes serious problems throughout the body, and the mouth is no exception. Diabetes can increase the sugar in saliva, which feeds the bacteria that cause tooth decay and cavities, and it reduces the body’s ability to fight oral infection. People with diabetes have a higher chance of developing gum disease, which can lead to pain, chewing difficulties and even tooth loss. People with diabetes should visit the dentist regularly for check-ups and cleaning. 

An oral exam can help detect diabetes because, like many other conditions, it often shows its first symptoms in the mouth. If symptoms are detected early enough, your clients’ employees can not only delay but possibly prevent progression.

Educate your clients’ employees on diabetes and oral health

Delta Dental plans offer several options to keep employees up to date with regular check-ups and cleanings. We also offer resources for groups to remind their employees of the importance of early diagnosis during American Diabetes Month. They can:

Offer support for your clients’ employees with diabetes

If your clients haven’t added SmileWay® Wellness Benefits to their employees’ plans already, ask them to consider selecting the option as part of their employees’ dental package. Available for Delta Dental PPO™ plans, SmileWay Wellness Benefits are for employees diagnosed with chronic health conditions such as diabetes. The benefits provide these employees with additional annual cleanings and gum treatments that help treat oral issues associated with the disease.

Eligible enrollees can receive these added benefits each calendar or contract year:

If your clients have employees with chronic conditions, encourage them to offer SmileWay Wellness Benefits as part of their coverage.

During American Diabetes Month, don’t forget the crucial role that oral health can play in detecting and managing diabetes.