Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

A recently conducted survey* found that only 50 percent of people surveyed visit their dentist as often as recommended. The reason? Many are simply not aware of what their dental insurance covers beyond preventive care.

In fact, it seems that a fear of surprise costs might be the setback. Many feel that they are going to get an unexpected bill at the end of their appointment or that the dentist will find an expensive problem.

Findings from this survey showed that a lack of transparency about costs may be what’s holding Americans back from getting preventive dental treatments, with seven in 10 Americans feeling that the bill at the end of the dentist appointment is sometimes more painful than the experience itself. In fact, two-thirds of Americans feel like a visit to the dentist often costs more than they initially expected; this is even more true for those whose household income is under $50,000.

Calculating Costs

In response to these consumer concerns about what it will cost to maintain dental health, employers shopping for dental insurance should take a multipronged approach to meeting these consumer needs:

  1. Dental network savings. Typically, a carrier can negotiate claims savings on covered dental services, which reduces a patient’s out-of-pocket costs.
  2. Dental cost estimator tools. Look for a carrier that provides your employees with access to a dental cost estimator. Estimator tools usually are able to provide estimates for common dental procedures and treatments. This way, a consumer can get information about costs before they ever walk into the dentist’s office.
  3. Dental health assessment tool. Helping members better understand their oral health and predict their risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease, tooth wear and oral cancer will promote preventive care and help avoid expensive medical treatments down the road.
  4. Preventive care. It’s also important to remind employees that preventive cleanings are often fully covered without additional out-of-pocket costs; the survey found that only six in 10 people know that most insurance plans cover two preventive visits annually.

The Importance of Dental Care

Another reason employers should encourage their employees to visit a dentist regularly is the fact that visiting the dentist at least twice a year can also bring other health problems to light. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, 90 percent of diseases show signs and symptoms in the mouth, and a regular checkup might reveal an underlying health problem that can be more easily treated because of early detection.

*Findings of a national online omnibus survey using the field services of Russell Research, from December 11-14, 2015. The margin of error for the sample of 1,050 is +/- 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. This means that, if we were to replicate the study, we would expect to get the same results (within 3.1 percentage points) 95 times out of 100.

Jason Kinzy is a marketing manager at Anthem, Inc. and is responsible for the promotion of Anthem’s specialty business (dental, vision, voluntary, life and disability plans) to members, employers and brokers. He has 20 years of health care marketing communications experience.