Broker blog from Delta Dental

Category: Wellness (Page 1 of 3)

Understand the wellness connection. Stay on top of the latest research in the dental health world.

Client considerations for COVID-19 vaccines

The speed and efficacy with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed is a testament to human ingenuity and the drive to create a safer world for us all. The three vaccines that are widely available in the U.S. (Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) have all received emergency authorization by the FDA after demonstrating both efficacy and safety, but there are other issues your clients may want to consider when deciding on how to approach a vaccine policy.

What options do employers have?

There are three main courses of action your clients could take when it comes to employees and vaccines:

  • Do nothing. This means choosing not to implement a company-wide vaccine policy and not advocating for and encouraging vaccinations. Doing nothing may not be the optimal choice from a public health perspective, but it’s certainly a valid one from a legal standpoint. Mandating or incentivizing vaccination could help to reduce increased costs or absenteeism from employees, but it can also lead to exposure to legal liability depending on how such policies are implemented (and how litigious employees are).
  • Encourage and incentivize vaccination. This is a gentler approach than outright mandating vaccinations as a condition of continued employment. Encouraging employees to get vaccinated is legally safe, although it may run the risk of upsetting employees who don’t believe in vaccination, who have concerns about vaccine safety, who have health considerations that keep them from getting vaccinated or who simply don’t like feeling pressured when it comes to managing their health. Incentives, such as offering paid time off or a bonus to employees who get vaccinated, must be carefully implemented, however. Aside from the cost considerations that comes with bonuses and incentives, employers may find themselves legally liable for any issues that arise from implementing on-site vaccinations.
  • Mandate vaccination. This is an aggressive option, but it’s certainly the most effective from the point of prioritizing the health and safety of employees. Mandating that employees get vaccinated is generally legal (although it may not be in some states), but it’s possible that some implementations could put your clients at legal risk (for example, setting up on-site vaccinations or inquiring about employees’ personal health to determine their eligibility for vaccination).

Which employees should get vaccinated first?

Until vaccines become more widely available, it’s best to prioritize employees who are most vulnerable to exposure and at greatest risk of complications from COVID-19. Of course, in health care and senior care industries, everyone with regular contact with the ill and elderly should be vaccinated. Outside of these industries, your clients should consider prioritizing:

  • Employees who work in close physical contact
  • Employees who have regular exposure to customers and other members of the public
  • Employees who have regular exposure to heavily trafficked enclosed spaces, food products or other settings where infection may be a risk
  • Employees who are 65 or older
  • Employees who are 16–65 with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of life-threatening COVID-19 complications

What are the risks of implementing a vaccine policy?

Your clients could get into legal trouble if pre-screening vaccination questions aren’t job-related and consistent with the requirements of their businesses. To avoid this outcome, they should make sure that any pre-screening questions are related to the job and that they can prove that unvaccinated employees pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other employees. Similarly, your clients could get into legal trouble if they attempt to prevent workers’ concerted activity, such as expressing opposition to mandatory vaccines.

Employers should make sure to follow state and local laws, as well. Some locales may have prohibitions against mandating vaccines that more strict than state or federal law.

Setting a policy and moving forward

Before settling on the policy that’s best for their company and their employees, there are a few final things your clients should consider.

  • Make sure to follow all federal, state and local laws. Your clients won’t want to put their organization at risk of legal exposure. It’s best to do some research and stay up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations.
  • Get a sense of how their employees feel. If your clients have employees who feel very strongly about vaccines, either adopting a mandatory policy or doing nothing may cause disquiet. Taking surveys of employee sentiments can be a good way to decide how to craft a message.
  • Identify who should be doing the communication. Figures like respected managers, team leaders and union officials can be excellent ambassadors for company policies, especially in larger organizations where employees may not have personal relationships with upper management.
  • Be transparent. As always, communication is key when it comes to rolling out new policies that can affect employees’ work lives. Your clients should let employees know both what their COVID-19 vaccine policy is and how that position was reached. They should be sure to listen to and address employee concerns, even if the company’s policy remains firm.

Regardless of what policy your clients decide to implement, wearing masks and respecting social distancing will stay important aspects of infection management. Even as vaccines become more readily available, maintaining practices and procedures to minimize the chance of infection and help their entire organization stay healthy is essential.

SmileWay Wellness Benefits help your clients’ employees stay healthy

More people are becoming aware of the way that health issues can manifest in the mouth and oral health issues can exacerbate other medical conditions. With serious issues like heart disease being responsible for so many deaths in the U.S., your clients may be interested in learning how good dental health can improve overall health. If your clients’ employees have medical conditions that affect their oral health, SmileWay® Wellness Benefits may be available to help meet their needs.

Who’s eligible for SmileWay Wellness Benefits?

Not everyone is eligible for SmileWay Wellness benefits. To claim these benefits, Delta Dental members must:

  • Have a Delta Dental PPO™ plan
  • Belong to a group that offers SmileWay Wellness Benefits
  • Have chosen to opt in to the program

Additionally, members must have been diagnosed with any of the following to be eligible for expanded coverage:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stroke

What are the benefits?

Those whose plans offer SmileWay Wellness Benefits are eligible for these added benefits each calendar or contract year:

  • 100% coverage for one scaling and root planning procedure per quadrant (D4341 or D4342)
  • and 100% coverage for four of the following in any combination:
    • Prophylaxis (D1110 or D1120)
    • Periodontal maintenance procedure (D4910)
    • Scaling in the presence of moderate or severe gingival inflammation (D4346)

If your clients have employees whose medical issues necessitate extra dental care, encourage them to consider adding SmileWay Wellness Benefits to their coverage. These benefits can help keep their employees both smiling and healthy!

Common questions clients may have about the COVID-19 vaccine

As the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more accessible throughout the country, you may find more of your clients and their employees talking about it and asking questions. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of conflicting and inaccurate information being spread through various media channels. Staying on top of the truth can be a full-time job, but here’s a list of common questions and some points you can bring up in case you hear concerns about the vaccine.

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes. Multiple expert sources, such as the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have attested to the vaccines’ safety. There are multiple reasons given why someone might be concerned about the vaccine’s safety, but the most common include:

  • Concerns about catching COVID-19 from a vaccine shot. There is no live virus used in the vaccines, so people who receive them can’t contract COVID-19.
  • Concerns about the vaccine damaging cells’ DNA. mRNA vaccines don’t alter cell DNA. Instead, they teach cells how to make a protein, which generates a response that will help the immune system target identical proteins in the COVID-19 coronavirus.
  • Concerns about the vaccines being developed recklessly or too quickly. The vaccines have been tested on tens of thousands of patients. Pfizer and Moderna have published ingredient lists for their vaccines, and the mRNA technology used to make the vaccines has been in development for over 30 years.

I’ve heard reports of people having aches, chills and other symptoms after getting vaccinated. Is this an issue?

No. Some people who have gotten the vaccine have reported muscle pain, chills and headaches, but that is not unusual for vaccines. These are part of the body’s normal immune response. But those who have had allergic reactions to vaccines in the past (which are due to the ingredients used in the vaccines), should first consult with their health care providers.

Should I still get a vaccine if I’ve had COVID-19 previously?

Yes. It’s not clear if having contracted COVID-19 previously grants long-term resistance and immunity, like having contracted chicken pox does. Even for those who have been infected previously, the CDC still recommends getting vaccinated.

COVID-19 doesn’t seem that deadly. Should I get a vaccine if I’m not in a high-risk category?

Yes. It’s true that as a percentage, most people who contract COVID-19 don’t die from it. Still, there can be serious long-term consequences such as lung, heart or brain damage. And even someone who doesn’t get seriously ill can still spread the disease among others who are more vulnerable. Getting a vaccine helps us protect not just our families and loved ones, but also society as a whole.

Once I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask or socially distance?

Yes. Even if a person has been vaccinated, that doesn’t mean that he or she can’t still spread the virus. It takes at least 10 days for the body to develop antibodies to the virus, and the number of antibodies present only goes up with more time. Additionally, research hasn’t conclusively determined if the vaccines prevent asymptomatic infection and spread (although it is likely that they do). Wearing a mask and socially distancing are also good behaviors to model for those who haven’t been vaccinated yet. By getting vaccinated and following other preventive measures, we can all do our part to end the pandemic sooner!

I’ve heard that the vaccine contains a chip inside that lets the government and corporations track people who get vaccinated. Is this true?

No. Some syringe makers include a microchip within the labels of their products so that health care providers can track the shipping history and origin of doses of vaccine. There is no chip within the vaccine itself.

I heard that the vaccine targets a protein that occurs naturally in pregnant women and can cause fertility issues. Is this true?

No. An amino acid sequence is shared between COVID-19 and a placental protein found in pregnant women, but the sequence is too short to trigger an immune response by itself. COVID-19 vaccines won’t cause fertility issues in women.

Grin! for Kids: a value-added resource for family dental plans

Educating families about dental care in creative ways raises prospects for buy-in to a Delta Dental plan. The way to engage children in dental care is to give them opportunities to learn about taking care of the teeth, gums and mouth so their smiles are healthy.

Grin! for Kids is a coloring and activity book with fun, educational projects for children in grades K‑5. It is a free resource that adds value to a Delta Dental plan. The book can be printed out at home for easy access, as parents show children about preventive care in taking advantage of plan benefits.

Each issue of Grin! for Kids, available in English and Spanish, contains new ideas and information that families can share as they maintain regular visits to their dentist under their plan.

Dental care is an important part of overall health

Dental health is about more than just dental health. As the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America put it: “…oral health is integral to general health. You cannot be healthy without oral health. Oral health and general health should not be interpreted as separate entities.”

Not surprisingly, then, neglecting dental health can impact more than just teeth and gums. While a common perception is that poor dental health affects only the mouth, it has also been associated with a variety of general health conditions.

While there isn’t conclusive evidence that poor dental health causes these conditions, studies have linked certain dental conditions, such as periodontal gum disease, to stroke and bacterial pneumonia.

The link between poor dental health and heart disease is particularly strong. For instance, a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation suggests that gum disease may increase the risk of heart attack by almost 50%. And in the same issue of the journal, it was reported that there’s increasing evidence for an association between gum and heart disease.

For women who are pregnant, poor oral health may affect not only their health but the health of their babies as well. For instance, a 2016 study found a possible link between gum disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes, including premature deliveries and babies with low weight at birth.

Oral health issues can also be symptoms of serious health conditions. For example, dry mouth, bad breath, gum disease and new or slow-to-heal dental infections may indicate untreated diabetes. Patches or numbness in the mouth, jaw pain or difficulty chewing may signal oral cancer.

Access to dental care, then, is important not only for maintaining healthy teeth and gums but for maintaining overall wellness and ensuring that no other, more serious health issues are present.

A key to this access is having dental benefits. People who have dental benefits are not only more likely to visit the dentist than people without them, but they’re also more likely take their children to the dentist, according to a National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) report. The report also notes that these people experience greater overall health than people without dental insurance.

The cost of skipping this care is significant. Each dollar spent on preventive dental care can save as much as $50 later on costly restorative treatments, such as fillings and crowns. And each year, $45 billion is lost in productivity due to dental disease, according to an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So when discussing dental health, remember — it’s about much more than dental health.

Grin! offers clients and their employees a free and fun wellness resource

Encourage your clients to brighten their smiles — and their days — with Delta Dental’s fun, informative and free e‑magazine: Grin!

Available in English and Spanish, this quarterly publication is full of useful and entertaining content, such as:

  • The latest news on dental care — including what to do during the coronavirus pandemic
  • Advice from experts
  • First looks at innovative technology
  • Fun features
  • Healthy recipes, and more

And because dental health is strongly tied to overall health, Grin! also explores how many chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and depression, are related to dental care. In fact, Grin! explains how allergies and oral health are related in the recent summer issue.

See for yourself: Check out the latest edition of Grin! here. And it’s easy to subscribe. With just one click, your clients and their employees can receive all that Grin! has to offer, four times per year. 

Healthy, happy employees are the key to a productive workplace, and Grin! can help. Why not offer it your clients today? 

And if they do choose to subscribe to Grin!, be sure to remind them to download this free poster that they can use to promote this great resource to their employees.

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