Health Plans Expand Dental Benefits

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Healthy Oral Hygiene Can Mean Substantial Medical Cost Savings

With mounting evidence linking poor oral hygiene to a range of medical problems, health plans are starting to cover more dental services. Insurers are finding that paying for certain dental services now, such as additional cleanings, gum treatment, prescription mouth washes, periodontal maintenance, and sealants and fluoride varnishes, can reduce the incidence of more serious (and costly) health problems later on. Studies have found that early detection and treatment of gum disease may result in significantly improved outcomes for serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes and healthier pregnancies.

Insurance companies, including Cigna and Aetna, allow enhanced benefits to groups they feel have greater risks. These new benefits include an additional (third) cleaning a year, antimicrobial mouth rinses, or scaling and root planing. “We can save medical costs by getting people to have dental care at the right times in there lives,” says Glenn Melenyk, a dental consultant with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Guardian Life and MetLife are making available implants and fluoride varnish for children and adults (if employers elect to add them to their company’s plans). Since these enhanced benefits come at a time when many employer-provided benefit packages are under pressure to cut medical costs, it shows a strong belief in the value of early detection and increased preventive dental care. We should all heed this advice.

Advances in modern dentistry have the potential of significantly improving our health and fitness and ultimately our quality of life. One of the best decisions we can make is to decide to be well informed about our options for dental treatment, whether or not they are covered by our insurance.