Broker blog from Delta Dental

Tag: employee wellness

Dental care for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Happy National Deaf History Month! If you haven’t heard of this season, it runs from March 13 to April 15. Nearly 15% of adult Americans report trouble hearing, so your clients may have employees with hearing issues and aren’t even aware of it! Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals face some unique challenges when it comes to getting dental care. Even making an appointment can be difficult. Fortunately, there are solutions available to ensure that no problem is insurmountable. Here are some of the common issues that people who are deaf and hard of hearing can encounter and what Delta Dental does to help solve them.

Challenges and considerations

When it comes to getting quality dental care, challenges can start before people who are deaf and hard of hearing ever set foot in the office.

  • The deaf and hard-of-hearing can have difficulty just making appointments. Not every office will have someone fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) on staff, but if an office isn’t set up to schedule appointments by text or email, it can be impossible for deaf patients to even step foot inside.
  • Dentists that don’t speak clearly, slowly and while looking at members make it hard to read lips. The deaf and hard of hearing may rely more on lip-reading than others. Seeing a dentist who is in a hurry or who talks while moving all about the practice can make it more difficult for the deaf and hard-of-hearing to follow what’s being said. To make things even harder, the fact that everyone is wearing masks because of COVID-19 only compounds this issue.
  • People may not even realize that they’re hard-of-hearing. Because most everyone loses some of their hearing as they get older, the change can happen so gradually that some people aren’t even aware of it. Attentive dentists can notice when their patients seem to have difficulty with hearing them or following a conversation and adjust accordingly.

Solutions and resources

Whether a person has recently become hard of hearing or has been deaf since birth, there are two major tools available to help them.

  • The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that Delta Dental members can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person translator when given 72 hours’ notice. Most importantly for deaf patients, this means that they can have an interpreter fluent in ASL accompany them to their dental visits!
  • The Find a Dentist search tool. The Find a Dentist search tool is perfect for members looking to find an in-network dentist that fits their specific needs. Members can search by distance and specialty, but they can also search for dentists by the languages their offices support and available accessibility features, including dentist offices where the staff is fluent in ASL!

More than 35 million people in the United States report having trouble hearing, whether they suffer from mild hearing loss or are completely deaf, so it’s essential for your clients that their dental coverage take this into consideration. Fortunately, valuable services like the Language Assistance Program and thoughtful features like the Find a Dentist search tool make it easier for deaf and hard-of-hearing members to get their dental needs taken care of.

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!

Step o’clock: 7 ways to fit more activity into your work day

4‑minute read

If you work a desk job, you’ve probably heard the warnings about a sedentary lifestyle at least a few (dozen) times. Many of us spend the majority of our time sitting at work. In fact, insurance sales agents in particular spend more than 80% of their workday sitting, on average.

young employees walking down hallway

We’ve all got important work to do in the office and personal lives to maintain, so it sometimes seems impossible to meet the ever-elusive 10,000 steps. In fact, when ranked by citizens’ average steps per day, the United States comes in at 30 out of 46 countries with an average daily step count of 4,774.

Let’s step it up! Here are some ways to implement more mobility in your workday:

1. Set a reminder to walk around once per hour

Sometimes breaking a lofty goal into smaller, achievable segments is the most effective route to success (as we’ve covered in a previous post). Aim for two to three minutes of activity per hour to keep your blood flowing and your mind fresh.

Many fitness trackers will remind you to move each hour, but you can track activity on your own by setting a calendar reminder and sticking to the time goal.

2. Eat a healthy snack on the go

Are you a grazer? If you eat several small meals throughout the day, try eating one or two on the move. It’s tempting to continue working or catch up on news and social media on these little breaks, but a lap around the office may be the best addition to your fruit or granola bar.

3. Switch up your commute — take public transit and get off a stop or two early

If you don’t already take the train or bus, just trying it out can increase your daily activity as you move around stations, switch routes and travel to and from your final destination. And if you’re already a public transit rider, try getting off a stop or two early and walking the remainder of your route.

If we use an average of about one kilometer between bus stops, you could easily walk a 5K during your workday. One kilometer is about 1,300 steps, so adding an extra kilometer of walking each way would fulfill more than 25% of your 10,000 step goal without any additional activity the rest of the day.

4. Park in the back forty

Bookend your workday with light activity by parking further away from the office. We know it’s tempting to beat Bob to the best spot in the lot, but you’re the real winner when you’re improving your health.

5. Take the stairs

Taking the stairs is classic advice for working in more activity, but it’s also a great way to level-up your daily activity goals. Walking around is certainly better than standing, but climbing up and down stairs for even a few minutes boosts the intensity of your daily activity.

Depending on weight, people burn 450 calories per hour on average climbing up and down stairs. If you climb for only two minutes, you could burn around 15 calories.

6. Opt for a longer route to perform daily tasks

Going to the restroom? Getting water? Grabbing copies off the printer? Great — but switch up your route. Try using a restroom on the opposite side of the building, or on another floor. Instead of taking a direct path to the printer, weave in and out of some cubicles. Bonus points for saying hello to coworkers you don’t get to see often!

7. Drink up

Hydration is a key element of an overall wellness routine (including oral health!), and you can use water and steps as a wellness double whammy. Keep water at your desk and try to take at least several sips each hour. You’ll stay hydrated — and when nature calls, you’re being more active with each trip to the restroom (especially if you take the long way). Funny little coincidence, huh?


We hope these tips can get you and your employees up and moving. Have any suggestions, or want to share your progress? Send us a quick email at blogs@delta.org.

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10 scientifically-supported ways to celebrate your employees

3‑minute read

Most businesses organize some sort of employee appreciation event every year. Why do we do it? Because other companies do it? Because social media tells us we should? Or maybe there’s a science behind it?

There actually is some science behind it. Here are ways you can boost employee happiness and productivity while going easy on your budget.

Employees smiling and talking in the office

Pay attention to these four brain chemicals, their positive effects, and some ways to get them pumping:

Endorphins

Endorphins are chemicals meant to ease pain and stress, but they are also proven to boost happiness. Since physical activities help produce endorphins, here are a range of activities that can get your employees moving:

  • Organize an intramural-style sport activity for your company. Popular sports include basketball, softball, volleyball and kickball. ZogSports coordinates leagues in major metro areas, and many smaller areas have local leagues.
  • Encourage members of your team to start a running group and run a race. Bonus points if you’re benefitting a charity or cause!
  • Look into getting a reduced group rate for fitness classes. There are plenty of cycling, strength training, yoga, barre and other studio fitness classes to choose from.

Dopamine

A lift in dopamine can kick-start some serious motivation and productivity, because it targets the reward center of the brain. Low levels of dopamine have been linked to procrastination and self-doubt, which is the opposite of how you want your employees feeling. Some motivation-boosting activities include:

  • Coordinate goal-setting meetings with specific rewards. If you plan out small milestones and celebrate each one, you’re encouraging continuous productivity and rewarding motivated behavior each time. Rewards can be as big or small as you want.
  • Play music at some points during the day, as long as it’s not distracting. Hearing music that you like is proven to boost dopamine levels. And it wouldn’t hurt if your team also got up and moved to the beat!
  • Encourage learning new skills or being creative. Set up a class at a local craft shop, share a video on the basics of drawing, or give your employees access to adult coloring books.

Serotonin

Serotonin is the chemical perhaps most closely linked to your mood. It contributes to feelings like calmness, and a lack of serotonin is linked to anxiety. Thankfully, there a lot of natural ways to boost serotonin levels and improve your employee’s moods, including:

  • Soaking up some sun. Plan your next team event around being outside —organize a team lunch at a local restaurant with a great patio, or simply relocate your weekly brownbag to a picnic table near the office.
  • Think positively and spread positivity. One of the easiest ways to boost serotonin levels is to recall positive experiences from the past. And try creating positive experiences for your employees going forward with a recognition program.

Oxytocin

The “trust hormone” is crucial in corporate culture. It helps us build working relationships and create positive interactions with one another. Here are a few things you can try in the workplace to build relationships and trust:

  • Try a trust- and team-building experience, like an escape room or obstacle course.
  • Give (and receive) small gifts! It’s been proven that giving a gift can often feel just as good as receiving one. Take this CEO for instance, who wrote each of his employees a birthday card (and received cards in return for his!).

Take a challenge and try integrating each of these happy chemicals into your employee engagement strategy throughout the year.

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Resources to Promote National Nutrition Month

Do your clients’ enrollees know how their nutritional choices can affect their teeth? We’ve put together some resources to make sure you can spread the word easily. This March, your clients can celebrate National Nutrition Month with these handy resources:

  1. The SmileWay® Wellness kit for National Nutrition Month. You’ll find ready-to-use flyers and posters on everything from chocolate to nutrition essentials. Your clients can share the pdfs electronically or print them.
  2. A ready-made email template. Included in the kit, the template can be opened in Microsoft Outlook and allows easy customization to suit your clients’ needs. Packed with relevant links to articles, videos and recipes, the email can serve as a ready-to-use newsletter article.
  3. Online articles. The Nutrition and Oral Health section of our SmileWay Wellness site has plenty of fresh articles to boost enrollees’ dental health knowledge.
  4. Tooth-friendly recipes. Your clients can take advantage of our recently expanded recipe list. These dishes and desserts feature tooth- and gum-supporting ingredients and minimal sugar content.

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