Preventive Care that Actually Saves Money… Dental

Over the last two decades, the healthcare industry has tied itself in knots in order to validate the business case behind preventive medical care. And although preventive care services offer a variety of benefits – social and humanitarian, for example – the data seems almost conclusive that economics is not quite one of them.

Too much excessive healthcare is expended on false positives and as general overconsumption, when employees are sent into the private market profit machine that is U.S. healthcare, to truly benefit from the occasional early cancer or heart disease diagnosis. Last week’s post from the New York Times bursts the preventive care bubble with several examples of how behavior doesn’t necessarily change as expected, and unforeseen consequences arise – sometimes with the opposite effect than intended.

However, for those employers hungry for a Return on Investment (ROI) on preventive health, there is one area that appears to buck the trend – preventive dental care.

While it’s true that dental coverage only costs on average 10% of medical coverage, a recent study by Guardian suggests that an employee population with high prevalence of preventive oral health costs employers 16% less in dental coverage than low preventive utilization groups. This is driven by a whopping 86% lower spend on major and restorative dental services. Following the logic above (dental costing 10% of medical), active preventive dental health equates to a savings of 1.6% off of your MEDICAL plans costs.

Dental typically gets second fiddle to medical because its numbers aren’t as large. But for savvy benefit managers seeking to impact the cost of their health and welfare program, it’s time to reconsider where you fire those preventive care education dollars.

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