As the United State’s first commercial teledentistry practice, Virtudent is committed to increasing access to care, lowering costs, and improving outcomes. We’re driven by several factors, including our long-held concern that various social aspects of society are hurt by poor oral health.
This way of thinking is underscored by a study published in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry. The study, titled “Broken smiles: The impact of untreated dental caries and missing anterior teeth on employment,” sought to
- quantify the impact of dental decay/cavities and missing front teeth on employment,
- estimate the impact of a routine dental visit on the health of front teeth, and
- quantify the benefits of expanding dental coverage for non-elderly adults.
To carry out the study, researchers developed a dental problem index (DPI), which was based upon tooth count and tooth surface condition. This enabled them to compare and contrast study participants from different categories.
Smiles and the Job Market
Among other things, the study found:
- Poor oral health may reduce a person’s participation in the workforce.
- This reduction, especially if long term, may be a signal of low productivity and deteriorated skills.
- Employers may be reluctant to hire individuals with expected frequent absences from work due to the consequences of unmet dental needs.
- Physical appearance is an important factor affecting the employability of a job applicant.
More specifically, the team found that just a one-point increase in DPI (meaning a decline in oral health) decreased the odds of being employed by nearly 8%. The researchers also found that average individuals who have had recent routine dental visits had a statistically significant positive impact on DPI when compared with demographically matched individuals who did not have such a visit.
Some other interesting facts about the study group: 60% had visited a dentist within a year prior to the interview. Of those who visited a dentist within six months of the interview and gave the reason for their visit, three-quarters of them went for a regular checkup, examination or cleaning, while one-quarter went for treatment.
Putting the Mouth Back into the Body
The team also surfaced worries: In 2015, the United States Census Bureau reported one in three U.S. nonelderly adults lacked dental benefits coverage, compared with just one in nine who lacked health insurance coverage.
“The gap between American adults with health insurance and those with dental benefits is concerning,” the researchers concluded. “It reinforces the separation of oral health from general health and continues to adversely affect the health outcomes, medical costs, and society.”
Their recommendation? Efficiently use health-care resources and improve the overall well-being of the society by exploring options to “put the mouth back in the body” and expand dental health coverage.
“Integrated dental coverage as a component of the medical health insurance package is an option that needs to be seriously explored,” the researchers warned.
Closing the Health-Dental Insurance Gap
Now more than ever, preventive oral health is critical to happy, healthy employees no matter where they are in their employment journey. We believe preventing dental disease is the key to lifelong oral health, and as studies like this highlight, a healthy smile can impact other areas in life like personal relationships, self-esteem, employability, and more.
At Virtudent, we believe in making oral healthcare accessible to all, and that’s why we go on-site to workplaces and provide preventive dental cleanings and exams. Looking to add dental cleanings to your benefits offerings? Connect with us to talk through your options.