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Offering a dental benefits plan may make economic sense. A frequently overlooked reason for employee absences or poor work performance is dental disease or discomfort. And, as every human resources professional knows, work days lost can mean loss of income for employers.

In addition to promoting oral health, a quality dental benefits plan can aid in the recruitment and retention of employees. In a competitive market, dental benefits are consistently cited as one of the most sought after employee benefits.

The Difference between Medical and Dental Needs and Treatments

Fortunately, offering a dental benefits plan to employees can be affordable.

Due to the dental profession’s promotion of fluoride, sealants and other preventive dental care, oral health in America has generally improved. According to data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of dental treatment has risen significantly less than the cost of medical treatment in the past few decades. In addition, dental needs and treatments differ from medical needs and treatments. The points below illustrate the differences between the two:

 MEDICAL NEEDS AND TREATMENTS CAN BE:  DENTAL NEEDS AND TREATMENTS ARE:
 Unpredictable  Predictable
 Catastrophic  Non-catastrophic
 High cost  Low cost
 An insurable risk  Low risk

As such, the design of a dental plan can differ from that of a medical plan. Dental disease is most often preventable and coverage is usually provided for those procedures which can prevent dental disease; dental treatment includes relatively low-cost diagnostic procedures, such as exams and x-rays. If decay or disease is detected, the sooner it is treated, the less expensive that treatment will be. The dental needs of an employee group are highly predictable. For this reason, a dental benefits plan can often be self funded. Extremes in cost and utilization (evident in many medical benefits) are rarely observed with dental statistics.

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