April is oral health month in Canada and we have good reason to celebrate. According to the Canadian Dental Association, Canada is among the world leaders for overall oral health of its citizens. We have extensive choice and availability for dental service providers with at least one dentist per 1,600 Canadians. Additionally, we can boast -- not that we would -- that 3 out of every 4 Canadians visit a dental professional at least once a year. Additionally, 84 per cent of us believe we have good oral health.
Dental services are treated somewhat separately from other health provisions in Canada with approximately 60 per cent of all private dental care expenditures coming from private insurance and the remaining 40 per cent coming directly out of pocket. The total spend for dental services per Canadian annually is $378.60 compared to $959 for prescription drugs and $946 for physician services. (source: Canadian Dental Association).
These statistics reveal that private insurance plays a key role in providing dental services in Canada. Private dental plans are often divided into 3 levels of coverage such as basic, major and orthodontic services. The basic coverage includes regular check-ups, cleaning and scaling. The major coverage includes the basic provisions as well as services such as crowns and bridges. The orthodontic coverage level may be limited to dependent children or include adults with a set lifetime limit.
Reporting on the trends and important areas of focus for employee education in this area of oral health awareness includes the following:
1) Canadians are keeping their natural teeth, but there is a rise in the risk of enamel erosion, which is irreversible. While less than 7 per cent of adults have lost all their teeth (this is down from 23.6 per cent 20 years ago), dentists are noticing an increase in damage to the hard outer surface of the tooth. As a result, patients are experiencing more tooth sensitivity and tooth decay.
Education and awareness for employees should focus on reducing the acidic drinks like sugary pop as well as the consumption of alcohol. Another tip that might not be well known is to wait 20 minutes after eating or drinking before brushing teeth in order to let saliva time to neutralize the mouth's acids.
Teeth grinding and sleep issues are often triggered by too much stress. Seeing a dental professional in order to be fitted for a mouth guard and ways to prevent additional enamel erosion is a helpful way to avoid more costly dental intervention.
2) Dental professionals also report the connection between oral health and the health of the rest of the body. Specifically, those with gum disease are more likely to have an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Education and awareness regarding proper nutrition and tips for making healthy lifestyle choices are beneficial for promoting both oral health and a healthy body. The results of these efforts should be positive health outcomes as well as lower dental claims experience.
3) Technology in dental offices. Just as we experience the rapid evolution of the effects of technology in other aspects of our life, there is no reason it shouldn't occur with dental services. Dental offices are increasingly introducing digital impressions and 3-D printers as well as smart sterilizers. Change will continue to happen and the predominant generation of Millennials in the workforce will expect more from their dental providers as a result. The latest software and intra-oral scanners have the potential to support earlier diagnosis and prevent costly dental procedures,
Keeping employer-sponsored dental costs in check and helping the growing number of "selfie" photo takers continue to value the importance of practicing proper oral hygiene are just two of the reasons to promote oral health month in Canada. If you are looking for ways to build awareness and effectively control your dental claims experience, we invite you to contact us. We have over 2 decades of industry knowledge to bring to work for you. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
If you read Canadian newspapers, you simply can't miss it. The media is aflutter with articles and social media posts about the question said to be under consideration for the upcoming federal budget, expected in early March 2017.
The Federal Government is considering taxing Canadians' employer-paid health and dental benefits.
The Finance Minister committed to a sweeping review of 150 tax credits worth about $100 billion in potential federal review. If health and dental benefits were treated as a taxable benefit, $2.9 billion in tax revenue could be collected.
---In today's news, TheStar.com reports that Prime Minister Trudeau "suggested the tax would not be part of the upcoming budget after he was quizzed on the issue by interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose."---
What employee benefits are taxed?
Currently employer paid life insurance and car allowances are considered taxable income. In Quebec, health and dental benefits have been taxable benefits since before 2000.
What's all the hubbub?
A change in this tax policy would effect more than half of the Canadian population.
When the change was introduced in Quebec, approximately 20 percent of employers dropped their group health and dental coverage. If this tax policy change occurs, it is predicted that employers, like those in Quebec, may drop or reduce group health and dental benefits coverage because the tax change would simply be too cost prohibitive.
Who will this affect?
It is reported that 13.5 million workers (22 million if their dependents are factored in) have private health and dental plans and they would be negatively effected by the elimination of this tax credit by an increase of between $500 and $1,200 in their annual tax bill.
Should this policy change be implemented, there is a high probability that the shift would revert from the private payor world to our public system where the costs are already hard to manage.
There is no official statement from the finance ministry to confirm or deny if this tax policy change is under consideration.
Who's up in arms?
Many Canadian healthcare professionals want Canadians to write their MPs to tell them they don't want this tax change. Chiropractors, dieticians, occupational therapists, dentists, physiotherapists and more are supporting a campaign called, "Don't Tax My Health Benefits" with the goal of raising public awareness of the potential for the elimination of this tax credit from the upcoming budget. To learn more about this campaign, check out the website www.donttaxmyhealthbenefits.ca
Have a say.
The "Don't Tax My Health Benefits" campaign encourages Canadians to have their say and sign a petition. If you don't support this potential change, you can write to your local member of parliament directly from the Don't Tax My Health Benefits website.
We're here to help.
We monitor the latest industry trends with a particular focus on the impact to employer-sponsored benefits and pension programs. No matter what position you hold on questions such as these, we're here to provide you with timely and relevant information. We invite you to contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
April is Dental Hygiene Awareness Month. Based on data collected between 2007 - 2009 by Statistics Canada for the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), 64% of Canadians have private dental insurance, 6% have public insurance and 32% have no dental coverage whatsoever.
Whether during the month of April or at other times of the year, it is important to promote oral health in the workplace because at any age, dental decay, gum disease, and some cancers can be prevented. A healthy smile also promotes a better first impression for customer-facing employees.
In addition, good oral health benefits both employees and employers as it correlates to greater productivity and better attendance outcomes. Based on the CHMS report, an estimated 2.26 million school-days and 4.15 million working-days are lost annually due to dental visits or dental sick-days.
Tips to help promote oral health in the workplace include;
1) Post messages, posters and reminders for employees to encourage tooth brushing during the work day and promote the importance of hydration by drinking water (approximately eight, 8 ounce glasses per day). Fluoride in our tap water provides an automatic defense against harmful ingredients that cause oral health disease. Fluoride is an important defense against tooth decay. Drinking fluorinated tap water is safe and less costly than getting a filing dealt with by the dentist
2) Encourage regular dental visits and provide information about the frequency of dental recalls based on the provisions outlined in your group benefits plan. A dentist can examine the mouth for signs of periodontal disease and oral cancer, which are highly treatable if caught early. It is helpful to visit the dentist at least twice a year for routine cleanings and checkups. Regular cleanings include tooth scaling which removes tartar from teeth and this can't be done at home.
3) Seek opportunities to dial up messages during oral health and dental hygiene awareness months or National Smile Week.
4) Provide information relative to generational oral health patterns. Modern dentistry supports the goal of keeping natural teeth healthy for as long as possible. In order to meet this goal, regular dental check ups are encouraged especially because later in life, gums may recede and expose root surfaces. Exposed roots are more susceptible to tooth decay and cavities.
Raising awareness through targeted communications can help save on future dental costs, help employees maintain clean and health teeth, and potentially diagnose gum disease or tooth decay early. When employees adopt a correct tooth brushing regime, they avoid unnecessary and costly unplanned dental visits and potentially increased absences from the workplace. For more tips about oral health promotion, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.