Broker blog from Delta Dental

Tag: heart disease

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!

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.

New, stronger evidence to support gum disease and heart disease correlation

The dental industry has been aware of the correlation between periodontal disease and a range of overall health issues for years, but there is new, more significant evidence to support the correlation between oral bacteria and heart disease.

A recent study found association between the virulence genes of several bacterial species that cause periodontal disease to atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries). Virulence genes are what make bacteria effective — in part by allowing bacteria to attach to healthy cells.

For the study, researchers took plaque samples from 65 patients with heart disease from plaque buildup in the arteries and from periodontal pockets, and concluded that the results “strongly correlate periodontal bacterial co-occurrence and periodontal bacterial adhesion factor to atherosclerosis.” This means that the presence of oral bacteria, and the bacteria’s ability to attach to cells, coincides with a higher risk ratio of atherosclerosis.

Previous research studied only the presence of oral bacteria in heart disease patients, but advancements in technology allowed researchers to study the virulence genes of several bacteria species to draw a stronger correlation.

This new evidence does not prove that the oral bacteria is causal, but it does raise more concern for the implications of gum disease — and highlights the importance of monitoring and improving oral health.

Want to learn more about gum disease or other oral health topics? Visit the Oral Health section of deltadentalins.com.

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