Woman brushing her teeth

Prioritising oral health will be critical in 2021

Amazon e-vouchers gifted to policy members in recognition of surgeries being closed.

Over 100,000 e-vouchers already issued by Unum so far this year.

Sharp rise in cost of dental claims post lockdown.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our daily lives – how we work, socialise and how we keep healthy. This has led to a focus on maintaining good mental wellbeing and keeping physically active. But one area that’s been particularly hard to keep up in lockdown is good oral health with dentists shutting for parts of last year.

Many employees were unable to keep up an adequate dental regime last year amid the lockdown restrictions. In recognition of this, Unum Dental is giving policy members an Amazon e-voucher as they couldn’t access surgeries or use some of their policy benefits while dental practices were closed during the first national lockdown.

As of February, over 100,000 e-vouchers have already been issued by the employee benefits provider with the goodwill initiative planned to continue into March.

All Unum Dental members (including dencover and optical) active between 1st April 2020 and 31st May 2020 are eligible for the goodwill gesture, with the amount varying depending on their chosen level of cover and whether they added dependants to the policy*.

User data from Unum Dental shows a sharp rise in the cost of claims submitted from 1st July to 31st September 2020 as employees returned to the dentist after being unable to attend regular dental check-ups during lockdown.

In previous years, regular check-ups and hygienist appointments often helped prevent the need for more significant work – but Unum Dental saw a significant rise in the value of claims post lockdown compared with the claims earlier in the year. Rising by 22% in the last three months of 2020 when compared to the first quarter of the year – reflecting the increased cost of treatment required, as well as the need for additional PPE provision. These figures suggest this has contributed to the increased cost of dental care**.

*The e-vouchers being issued during January – March will have no impact on annual benefits. Members can continue to visit any dentist or optician and use their benefits as normal.

**This increase also considers the fact Unum Dental policies have covered the cost of PPE since November 2020. Cover levels, annual limits and exclusions apply (e.g. PPE can only be claimed where it appears on an itemised receipt).

Prioritising oral health

All this illustrates just how important it is to prioritise oral health and Glenn Thompson, Chief Distribution Officer at Unum UK has listed some simple things to consider during the continued lockdown.

  1. Avoid delaying treatment: if you experience ongoing toothache, or other dental issues including unusual changes in the mouth, it’s important to make a plan to visit the dentist as soon as you can. Dentists remain open during lockdown for both urgent and non-urgent appointments so long as they have access to PPE. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, get checked out by your dentist or doctor and do try to keep to your normal schedule of check-ups and hygienist visits.
  2. Focus on preventative dental care: taking a preventative approach to your oral health really is critical; it not only helps you maintain a healthy smile but will also keep a check on other health issues, in turn minimising the risk of you needing to take time off work for an extensive dental surgery or other sickness absence as well as boosting your overall wellbeing.
  3. Keep a regular routine outside of dental visits: ensuring teeth are brushed at least twice a day, regularly flossed, and maintaining a schedule of check-ups where you can will all help to keep your oral health in check as well as reduce the risk of gum disease and other long-term issues that are associated with poor oral health.
  4. Be wary of gum disease: keep an eye out for swollen red gums or if your gums bleed easily as this may be an early sign of gingivitis which has the potential to lead to tooth loss. However, following a visit to the dentist and a strict dental hygiene regime, gingivitis is usually reversible.
  5. Include a check for mouth cancer: Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is where a tumour develops in a part of the mouth. It may be on the surface of the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth (palate), the lips or gum – but it only takes 45 seconds to do a check, and can easily form part of your bathroom routine. And it’s important to be wary of long-lasting ulcers and red or white patches on your tongue as early detection is by far the most important factor when quickly treating mouth cancer.
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