Offering dental coverage and encouraging employees to stick to yearly care regimens can boost employee well-being and overall productivity.

Among those who visit their dentist at least once a year, 22% were more likely to report their overall well-being as good when compared to those who have shied away from the dentist’s chair, finds a new survey from Delta Dental.

“The bottom line is if you have the coverage, you are a lot more likely to get the preventive care and that’s how dental insurance is designed – to help people get preventive care to prevent them from ever having to have major work,” says Darci Shaw, associate director of marketing communications at Delta Dental Plans Association. She notes that 1-in-6 Americans report they have missed work due to oral health issues.

Eighty percent of Americans with dental coverage say they visit their dentists at least once a year compared to only about half who reported not having coverage. Income, education and age were major factors in whether individuals opted for dental care or reported strong levels of oral health, according to the report.

Also See: Tool helps employers track dental plan use

While the Affordable Care Act doesn’t mandate dental coverage among adults, research from Eastbridge suggests the voluntary dental market has become more competitive in the last few years as an increasing number of group and medical carriers enter the voluntary space.

“When you offer a benefit that is not voluntary, where employers are contributing something, people are more likely to pick it up. But in terms of pick up for voluntary, we really try [have] a lot of materials to help the employer educate their employee base on why it would valuable to pick up the voluntary coverage,” Shaw says.

Shaw explains that effectively communicating the benefit, particularly among lower-income workers, can help reassure those skittish about dental coverage. Nearly half (46%) of Americans making $25,000 or less a year report visiting the dentist regularly, compared to 86% of Americans who make $100,000 or more a year. Shaw says employers need to educate employees about the benefit by targeting those who have not been to the dentist in a while or reminding participants the coverage is available.

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