Is Your Company Paying For The Biggest “Wasted Benefit”?

As the coronavirus pandemic brings healthcare to the forefront of America’s mind, HR professionals are considering the importance of benefits packages more than ever. Benefits are crucial to attracting and retaining good employees, even when there’s not a global pandemic —  according to national studies, 49% of employees report they would seek out new jobs due to dissatisfaction with benefits, and 78% say benefits packages keep them from looking elsewhere. If you’re an HR professional evaluating your own benefit offerings, you’re likely coming across one puzzling obstacle over and over again: “wasted” benefits. 

Wasted benefits are ones that employers pay for, but their employees simply don’t use. Recently, even cornerstone benefits like health insurance are falling into the category. Insurance companies’ profits are skyrocketing as the amount they have to shell out to cover patient procedures falls. Just look at UnitedHealth Group Inc.: the parent to America’s largest health insurer reported net income of $6.64 billion in the second quarter of 2020, compared with $3.29 billion in the same period last year. That’s their most profitable quarter in history, made possible by your employees’ wasted benefits.

Dental benefits are the most likely to go unused. According to the ADA, over ⅓  of adults 19 – 64 with private dental benefits don’t have a single dental claim per year. And that was before Covid! Additionally, for 69% of adults, the total money spent on dental care including premiums actually exceeds the “market” value of their dental care. These statistics illustrate just how raw a deal dental insurance can be for employers and employees alike.

But are there alternatives to standard dental insurance? As with anything else, when there is a gap in the healthcare marketplace, companies will create competitive solutions to fill it. That’s why I helped found Smylen, a new type of dental plan that eliminates that hassles barriers and barriers of going to the dentist by making booking easy and taking a consumer-driven approach to dental.  We boast up to 70% savings over market prices with none of the premiums or restrictions of traditional insurance. Smylen lets employers sponsor or pay for employee memberships as an alternate (or additional) benefit. 

Some insurers like Aetna, Cigna, and Humana offer a dental savings plan as an alternative to insurance. Historically, these plans offer moderate discounts and an archaic user experience (think: paper card mailed to your home with a phone number on it – woof!)

There are other options like Kleer that cater to dental practices, helping them set up membership programs for their patients as an alternative to insurance. Or Floss Bar, which brings dentists to your office to boost employee care (though this poses difficulties since COVID!). 

In response to COVID-19, insurers are waiving fees for certain kinds of care to help quell the pandemic, which may begin to even out their enormous profit margins and encourage more people to seek care. However, dental care is not likely to be part of these changes, which cater more to PCP telemedicine or COVID-related hospital stays. So for HR professionals looking to provide their employees with the best benefits, ones they’ll actually use, dental insurance continues to be a black hole. Instead, try an alternative like Smylen that helps put your employees’ health over insurance profits.

Derek Giddon D.D.S. – Founder & CEO of Smylen

Interested in learning more about Smylen?  Please visit our employer page or email us at partnerships@smylen.com.

5 Tips for a Better Smile

  1. Make Sure to Use Dental Floss

Sure, there are tons of products on the market that claim to clean your teeth, but nothing can replace good, old-fashioned dental floss.  What makes floss irreplaceable is its ability to get in between the teeth, where surfaces are tight against one another, and attack the places where some of the worst germs hide. You should know that brushing your teeth only removes about 50% of the nasty stuff off of your teeth. Floss is the absolute best household product to take care of the other half.  It does not matter how fancy or expensive a toothbrush you use or how intensely you go over each tooth, you still need to floss.

  1. Limit Your Coffee Tea and Red Wine

Beverages like tea, red wine, and coffee are well known for staining your teeth. These drinks can create a superficial stain that a hygienist or dentist can polish off. But, in some cases, they can also cause internal damage to the tooth enamel. If you want to take some precautions, you can try drinking through a straw. This way, the liquids don’t make contact with your teeth when you are enjoying your drinks. You should also rinse your mouth out with water, the more frequently the better. The water will wash the dark liquids off your teeth, so they won’t sit there creating stains.

  1. Purchase a High Quality Toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes have been proven to remove plaque more efficiently and provide more cleaning to the gums than standard toothbrushes. If you are willing to spend the money, some electric toothbrushes even include settings for whitening or sensitive teeth. While you will have to replace the electric toothbrushes’ heads, the bodies are made to last years at a time. If an electric toothbrush isn’t your thing or you aren’t looking to spend too much, make sure you buy a soft-bristled manual brush. You can always find hard and medium brushes on the market, but dentists around the country agree that they are not healthy for your teeth.

  1. Manage Your Sugar Intake

While candies and cakes always seem tempting, they wreak havoc on your teeth, leading to plaque buildup and weakened enamel. Instead of indulging in sugary snacks, its better to reach for nutritious foods like fruit, cheese, Greek yogurt or raw vegetables. Many veggies, including celery and cauliflower, even help remove crumbs from between your teeth and also help fight plaque.

  1. See Your Dentist More Often

The importance of dental check-ups cannot be downplayed. Many people see their dentist twice a year, but even that is not enough. It’s recommended that you check in with your dentist every 3 months, which is 4 times a year. While that may sound like too much to some people, it really is necessary. Your mouth can build up quite a lot of germs in 90 days, and then you are just back where you started! There’s nothing better you can do for your mouth than to have a professional dental cleaning.

Why Dental Cleanings are Essential

green and white denture toy

Have you scheduled a dental cleaning yet this year? Brushing and flossing at home are great, but they are just not enough. To truly ensure you have a mouth full of healthy teeth, you should have frequent check-ups with your Dentist, and let them take care of the built up germs. Dental cleanings do more than just brighten your smile, they can also have an impact on your general health. Leaving your mouth mouth full of bacteria and germs can lead to sickness and infections. A professional cleaning includes several steps, and they all serve a great purpose to your mouth.

The first thing that will happen is the dental examination. This is where your dentist or hygienist will check in between your teeth for cavities. The professional may also use X-Rays to detect any hidden cavities they could not see. The exam will also include a check for tartar or plaque on your teeth. If you do not remove plaque, a thin layer of bacteria, from your mouth, it can harden and become tartar. Tartar cannot be removed from the usual brushing, and must be treated by a Dentist.  A build-up of these bacterial nuisances can lead to oral diseases.

Next, the exam will focus in on your gums. This will be done using a tool to measure the space between your teeth and your gums. A deeper space between the two can be an indication of gum disease. There should also be attention paid to your neck face and head. This is to look for any signs of trouble – redness, swelling, possible signs of cancer.

After the examination is completed, the cleaning stage will begin.  During the cleaning, your Dentist will utilize special tools to remove the identified areas of plaque and tartar. This is called scaling.

After your teeth have been cleaned, they will then be polished. In most cases, a gritty paste is used for this process. The paste helps remove all the surface stains of your teeth, and leaves your teeth feeling smoother than ever. The final step will usually include flossing your teeth to remove any left over bits. After that, the dentist will clean you up, you’ll rinse and spit, and you’ll be on your way.

Professional dental cleanings give your dental expert the opportunity to address all of these possible issues. The more frequently you visit your dentist, the more information they can collect on your teeth, and the quicker they can intervene if trouble arises. If you have not had your normal visit yet, or have been putting off a visit for a while, make sure you make an appointment for a cleaning soon!

Are you one of the 250 million Americans struggling with high dental costs?  Give Smylen a try.  A first-of-its-kind platform, Smylen allows you – the patient – to Name Your Fee for various dental procedures, and matches you with a local dentist who accepts that fee.  Save thousands of dollars in just a few clicks at Smylen.

Best Ways to Keep Your Gums Healthy

woman with pink lipstick
http://www.Smylen.com

While the importance of cleaning your teeth is obvious, it is only half the battle when it comes to oral hygiene. Maintaining healthy gums is an essential, and often overlooked, part of dental care.

When you don’t treat your gums well, plaque builds up under and along the gum line and it creates an ideal environment for gum disease to fester. Periodontal disease often starts as gingivitis, a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the gum tissues. If left untreated, this condition can progress to periodontitis, which results in loss of the bone that surrounds the teeth. When bone tissue is lost, the teeth and gums begin to separate, forming pockets that provide an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Ultimately, the disease may cause tooth loss, painful abscesses, and even systemic inflammation.

Fortunately, gum disease is preventable. Good dental habits like brushing and flossing at least two times a day can prevent infections. Having your teeth cleaned and checked by a dentist every three to four months is also important. No matter how hard you brush, nothing can attack plaque and tartar like a professional cleaning.

There are quite a few foods that, when introduced into the diet, help maintain ideal gum health:

  • Chewing on an apple can take a while, but that is a good thing for your teeth. The munching action shakes the plaque loose that clings to your gums. Just be sure to wash your mouth out after enjoying the apple, as the natural sugars could harm your enamel.
  • Ginger root is a strong anti-inflammatory agent. The herb can be used to help swelling of the gums and promote healthy tissue in your gums.
  • Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt or cheese, are not only loaded with bone-strengthening calcium, but also with a protein call casein, which lowers the acidity in your mouth. Dairy products can neutralize the acids produced from plaque as well.
  • Leafy greens are well known to be a healthy food for your body, but they are also successful at keeping your gums clean. Their benefit comes from all the fiber packed into the greens. They require some serious chewing and some extra saliva to break down, neutralizing acids in the process.
  • Yes it will give you bad breath, but raw onion is a strong bacteria-killing superfood. Onions have an active ingredient that attacks bacteria, specifically four bacteria strains that cause gum disease. Make sure to pop in a breath mint after following this tip.

How To Avoid Coffee Stains on Your Teeth

Let me guess, you need a few cups of coffee to get through your day but you’re worried about unattractive brown spots left on your teeth. You aren’t alone. Stained teeth are a real concern for coffee drinker everywhere. Luckily, there are a few tricks you can use to avoid the dreaded coffee stains.

Adding Creamer Doesn’t Help

Many people believe that adding creamer or milk to coffee will reduce the coloring of the stains. Their thinking is that by lightening the color of the coffee, it will also lighten the color of the stain, making them less visible. This prevalent thought is a myth. Coffee stains occur when the tannins (a type of acid) in the coffee bind to the enamel on your tooth and discolor it. Adding any dairy product will do nothing to reduce that effect.

In fact, adding a creamer to your drink is even worse for your teeth. The sugar in the cream can cause plaque to form on your teeth, creating another oral hygiene problem.

Drink Water Along With Coffee

Pouring a glass of water to drink along side your coffee is an easy way to protect your teeth. The water will wash the coffee off of your enamel, so stains do not have time to form. It will also flush out any coffee remnants left in your mouth. If you enjoy a sugary creamer in your morning beverage, the water will boost your saliva’s capability to break down the sugar, avoiding the plaque build up that could occur otherwise.

Drink Through a Straw

Using a straw with your coffee reduces the amount of contact the drink has with your teeth. Since the stains occur when the coffee builds up on a tooth’s enamel, sipping through a straw will avoid this problem. The method is not perfect, as your molars will still be stained, but your front teeth should be spared any brown marks.

Using a straw is already pretty common while drinking iced coffee, but this tip can also apply to drinking hot coffee as well. If you are worried about drinking a hot beverage through plastic, there are dozens of metal straws made specifically for coffee on the market. Just be sure that your drink is not too hot, as it is easier to burn your tongue using this method.

Drink a Bit Quicker

To be clear, you should never chug a hot beverage of any kind. But, you also should not sip on coffee throughout the whole day. The small but constant contact of coffee on your teeth will cause more damage than drinking it all at once. Always be conscious of how long it takes you to finish that cup of joe, and try to slowly shorten that time frame.

 

Are you one of the 250 million Americans struggling with high dental costs?  Give Smylen a try.  A first-of-its-kind platform, Smylen allows you – the patient – to Name Your Fee® for various dental procedures, and matches you with a local dentist who accepts that fee.  Save thousands of dollars in just a few clicks at Smylen.

5 Surprisingly Bad Foods for Your Teeth

We all know certain foods (especially sugary ones) lead to cavities, but some dental culprits can go overlooked. Here are five shockingly bad foods for your teeth:

sliced bread on white surface

1. Bread

It may seem innocent to your mouth at first, but bread can wreak havoc on your teeth. When you chew bread, it’s broken down from starch into sugar. The bread then sticks to the crevices in between your teeth, causing cavities and enamel damage. If you do have a craving for bread, try reaching for whole wheat instead, which has less added sugars.

close up photo of clear drinking glass filled with ice

2. Ice

How can ice be bad? It’s just water, right? Not exactly. Ice is a particularly hard substance, and chewing on something that requires a lot of pressure can harm your teeth. Crunching on ice can lead to enamel damage or more serious dental conditions like chipped or cracked teeth. There is nothing wrong with using ice to chill down your drinks, so keep the ice in your cups where it belongs.

dried fruits

3. Dried Fruit

Many people use dried fruit as a healthier alternative to candies and artificial sweets. While they may be better to digest, they do not do your mouth any favors. As they are usually pretty sticky treats, dried fruits get stuck and cling to the teeth and the space between them. Fruits’ naturally high sugar content can cause plaque or tartar to build around the teeth, so make sure to wash away the remnants with water after you enjoy them.

assorted color nips

4. Sour Candies

As obviously bad as candy can be to your mouth, sour candies are even worse! The sour components in the sweets are actually added acids that are rough on your gums and teeth. On top of the acid and sugar, add the usual stickiness of candy, and you have a recipe for a dental nightmare. Instead of sour candies, you should try eating some chocolate instead. Chocolate is lower in sugar and easier for your saliva to break down. Dark chocolate in particular has a relatively low sugar level.

chips crisp crispy crunchy

5. Potato Chips

Chips are not known to be the healthiest snack, but many people overlook the hurt they can cause to your mouth. Potatoes are packed with starches, and those starches will eventually break down into sugar. Potato chips have a tendency to get stuck in your gums, causing prolonged contact with your teeth. Make sure to floss after you indulge in potato chips to make sure every crumb is removed.

 

Are you one of the 250 million Americans struggling with high dental costs?  Give Smylen a try.  A first-of-its-kind platform, Smylen allows you – the patient – to Name Your Fee® for various dental procedures, and matches you with a local dentist who accepts that fee.  Save thousands of dollars in just a few clicks at Smylen.

TEETH WHITENING PART 2: THE SAGA CONTINUES

A bit more on teeth whitening…

WHY ARE TEETH SENSITIVE AFTER TOOTH WHITENING?

Well basically, the acidic gel has seeped into your enamel and exposed the nerves in your dentin.  What am I talking about? Read my lesson on the different parts of a tooth.  

What do we mean by sensitivity?  You typically will feel something like an electric “ping” in your teeth. This usually occurs in 24-48 hours after whitening.  This can be prompted by hot or cold drinks. This can also be unprompted. (Funny story: I was about to go in for the first kiss with my now wife when I felt one of these shocks and I screamed in her face.)

Some people are more sensitive than others.  The lead singer of the Counting Crows is super sensitive.  Stone Cold Steve Austin is not very sensitive. If you are experiencing a lot of sensitivity, here’s a few things you can do:

  • cut down the amount of time you are bleaching your teeth:

if you are wearing bleaching trays, wear them less often.  Also, wear them for a shorter period of time. You can achieve excellent whitening results only wearing trays for 1 hour.

  • decrease the strength of the gel you are using

Like we said, gels come in different strengths: 10%, 15%, 20%, 35%.   Are you sleeping overnight with 35% gel 6 nights a week and wondering why your teeth are sensitive?  I think it’s time to chill out.

  • use a desensitizer

If you got an in-office whitening, sometimes they will give you a “desensitizing” gel after the procedure to apply post-operatively.  this will certainly help as well.

Didn’t get the luxurious desensitizer?  Sensodyne toothpaste can help. according to Sensodyne: “Sensodyne® toothpastes with potassium nitrate works to soothe the nerves inside the tooth.”  My sister swears by the stuff. Just make sure you using it twice a day and not bouncing around to Crest or Colgate after sleeping over at your boyfriend’s apartment.  Consistency is key in order to get the benefits of Sensodyne.

WILL TOOTH WHITENING WORK FOR YOU?

Results may vary!  This is not a perfect world!  A good rule of thumb is: this helps most if your teeth are yellow.  If your teeth are gray, (as Liam Neeson’s adversary said in Taken) “good luck”.  

Everyone wants whiter teeth and luckily in this day and age, there are many different ways to accomplish this.  Decide what makes the most sense based on your teeth and your budget.

In the meantime, Keep Smiling 🙂

Derek
Are you one of the 250 million Americans struggling with high dental costs?  Give Smylen a try.  A first-of-its-kind platform, Smylen allows you – the patient – to Name Your Fee for various dental procedures, and matches you with a local dentist who accepts that fee.  Save thousands of dollars in just a few clicks at Smylen.

TEETH WHITENING PART 1: HOW DO YOU GET WHITER TEETH?

There are a number of ways to get whiter teeth.  Let’s go through them.

CLEANING

First off, are your teeth clean?  Is last week’s (month’s) mac n’ cheese sitting between your teeth?  Take a long, hard, honest look at yourself in the mirror. Do you need a cleaning?  If you have plaque/tartar/bacteria sitting all over your teeth, no act of G-d is going to get it whiter.  You need a cleaning dude. If you haven’t one in 6 months, or, if Obama was president, or, you can’t remember your last cleaning, the time is now!

Also, some staining is best removed via a cleaning.  Drink a lot of coffee? Tea? Red wine? Smoke a pack a day?  Do you dip? Chew betel nut?  There is a good chance you have brown stains on the front of your teeth and I can almost guarantee you on the back of your teeth.  The cavitron cleaning takes removes this type of staining best.  You will want to have a cleaning prior to moving on to any of the other options.

BLEACHING TRAYS

You can buy stock trays online or have custom ones made at the dental office.   Of course, the stock trays are cheaper and less comfortable. The custom trays are more expensive and fit very comfortably.  You apply some bleaching gel into the trays, and put the trays in your mouth. Wear for 30 minutes – a few hours (depending on the strength of the gel), and your teeth will gradually be whitened.  

The gels (typically carbamide peroxide) come in different strengths: 10%, 15%, 20%, 35%.  Depending on the strength you will vary the amount of time you wear the trays. Higher strength should be worn for less time and visa versa.

Upsides?

You are in control.

You can use it as often as you want.

Downsides?

Need to use a few times to see clear results.

Need to purchase bleaching gel.

CREST WHITE STRIPS

The active ingredient in these is equivalent to the whitening gel mentioned above.  You stick em on your teeth and let the gel soak in. Yes, I’ve heard they really work.

Upsides?

You are in control.

You can use it as often as you want.

Downsides?

The alternatives (bleaching trays and chairside whitening) will work a lot faster.  

IN OFFICE / ZOOM / “LASER” / CHAIRSIDE WHITENING

This is the easiest way to get results, fast.  Here’s what happens. You sit in the chair. Someone (probably a dental hygienist) loads your mouth up with cotton and this protective ‘dam’ to prevent your gums from getting burned.  Bleaching gel (usually carbamide peroxide) is applied to your teeth. A fancy light is set on your gel’d up teeth. Bleaching occurs. Usually for 1 hour.

Upsides?  

1 hour.  

Usually the most obvious results.

Downsides?  

Can make teeth sensitive.  Some people are more prone to sensitivity than others.  

Results may vary.

Results typically fade over time.  

 

(DETOUR PSA – Post Op Instructions For Zoom Whitening:

Avoid “staining” foods: red wine, marinara sauce, coca cola, gatorade… catch my drift?

The ideal post-whitening meal would be turkey and white American cheese on white bread with mayo and a glass of milk.)

 

That’s all for this week folks.  There is more to unpack next week in… TEETH WHITENING PART DEUX: THE SAGA CONTINUES!

In the meantime, Keep Smiling 🙂

Derek
Are you one of the 250 million Americans struggling with high dental costs?  Give Smylen a try.  A first-of-its-kind platform, Smylen allows you – the patient – to Name Your Fee for various dental procedures, and matches you with a local dentist who accepts that fee.  Save thousands of dollars in just a few clicks at Smylen.

DENTAL IMPLANTS 101: THE BEST WAY TO REPLACE A TOOTH

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are the best way to replace your teeth in 2018.  Simple. That’s all, see you next week.

Just kidding.

Dental implants mimic an actual tooth.

There is a screw for the root, the cone underneath the gum and bone.

And a crown for the part of the tooth you see when you smile.

There is also a connector between the screw and crown called an abutment.

What are the benefits of implants?

Implants have significant benefits over other forms of tooth replacement.  We discussed some of the downsides to a bridge.  And we will discuss the downsides to a partial denture in future posts.  The implant doesn’t have these issues as it most closely mimics an actual tooth.  More specifically:

#1 it does NOT require the shaving down/harm of any neighboring teeth

#2 it maintains the most aesthetically pleasing result since the teeth are not connected together

#3 you can also floss for the same reason!  No special oral hygiene required, just floss as you would a normal tooth

#4 an implant engages your bone, therefore preventing bone loss

So why are implants so expensive?

The cost of equipment and materials are higher than that of the alternatives.  Surgical equipment, implant parts, lab fees. Also, you must consider doctor training and expertise.  Not every dentist is trained to place implants so there is a premium that goes along with that.

So what if you are missing more than 1 tooth?

Well, just like everything in life, it depends.  2 teeth? Get 2 implants. 3 teeth? Get 3. Or get an implant bridge.  4 teeth? 4 implants, a 4 unit bridge, or a partial denture.

All your teeth?  Full denture.  Or – implant supported overdenture.

There’s many ways to do it.  You need to figure out what works for you both in terms of preference, and budget.

In the meantime, Keep Smiling 🙂

Derek

 

Are you one of the 250 million Americans struggling with high dental costs?  Give Smylen a try.  A first-of-its-kind platform, Smylen allows you – the patient – to Name Your Fee for various dental procedures, and matches you with a local dentist who accepts that fee.  Save thousands of dollars in just a few clicks at Smylen.

WHAT IS A DENTAL BRIDGE: THE TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS OF TOOTH REPLACEMENT

A dental bridge is used to replace a missing tooth.  Pretend you are missing a tooth and there are good teeth in front of the space and behind the space.  Those good teeth are ‘shaved down’ or ‘prepared’ to be little stumps. The bridge is cemented to these two stumps and has a dummy tooth in the middle.

So basically, the tooth behind the gap is Manhattan.

The tooth in front of the gap is Brooklyn.

The gap itself is the East River.

And the dummy tooth is the Brooklyn Bridge.

Awesome right?  Well not entirely.  There are many downsides to a bridge:

#1. First and foremost, the teeth are getting shaved down.   It’s one thing if the teeth are ALREADY shaved down (i.e. for a crown), but otherwise, you are basically harming perfectly good teeth in order to fill in the gap.  Down the road, these teeth could need root canals, or even extraction. By shaving them down they are opening the teeth to the risk of developing other problems.

#2.  Bridges do not last forever.   They typically need to be replaced after 5, 10, 15 years.  It all depends on how well you take care of them.

#3.  Speaking of which, bridges are a nightmare to clean.  Since the “teeth” are connected, you cannot floss between them.  In fact, you need to floss UNDERNEATH your bridge. How you ask? There are a number of ways: floss threaders, water picks, special brushes, Superfloss.  No matter how you do it, it requires extra care and attention.

#4.  Bone loss.  When a tooth is removed (which is what results in the gap in the first place), you lose bone in that area.  There is nothing to hold the bone up (which the root previously did). You can lose about 40-60% of the bone mass at the time of the extraction, and about 1% per year thereafter.  A dental implant actually goes INTO the bone, and thus, “holds it up”.  The dummy tooth on the bridge sits ON TOP of the bone, and thus, does NOT “hold it up”.  So imagine you get your front tooth extracted when you are 20 years old and you get a bridge.  Many years later (and likely, many bridges later) when you are 50, it will likely be very difficult to get a good cosmetic result if you have a large amount of bone loss.

Doesn’t sound so sexy now does it?  So why would anyone get a bridge? Some insurance companies cover a bridge and do not cover the cooler, sexier, more thrilling alternative (the implant).  But if all the insurance companies were jumping off a cliff, would you?  (Doesn’t really work there does it?)

Anyway, this is probably a great time to talk about dental implants… BUT my Lean Cuisine just finished heating so you’ll have to wait till next week folks!

In the meantime, Keep Smiling 🙂

Derek

Are you one of the 250 million Americans struggling with high dental costs?  Give Smylen a try.  A first-of-its-kind platform, Smylen allows you – the patient – to Name Your Fee for various dental procedures, and matches you with a local dentist who accepts that fee.  Save thousands of dollars in just a few clicks at Smylen.