Preventive Care Key to Increased Productivity

As employers have learned more about the impact of preventable illness on the cost of employer-sponsored health benefits and overall productivity, they have become increasingly interested in company wellness plans that encourage healthy behaviors, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. The most recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey of employers found that 58% of small firms (three to 199 workers) and 85% of large firms (200 or more workers) have some type of wellness program in place.1 Yet wellness plans rarely include preventive dental care. This could be a mistake.

According to a new study from researchers at Marymount University and Virginia Commonwealth University, poor oral health may lead to more work hours lost than many realize. Using data from the 2008 National Health Interview Survey, the team found that of the average 320.8 million work or school hours lost annually for dental care in the United States, more than a quarter (28.8%) is due to unplanned emergency care.2 That works out to 92.4 million hours of lost work or school time.2

Not all unplanned dental visits can be prevented, of course: A dislodged crown or an accident that knocks out a tooth are but two examples. However, other types of unplanned visits — such as for a caries-related toothache — could be avoided with better preventive care. In the study, adults with poor oral health were more likely to lose one or more hours due to unplanned dental visits than those who reported good oral health.2 In addition, subjects in the survey who reported they couldn’t afford dental care lost more work hours to unplanned dental visits than other respondents.2

The National Health Interview Survey data set is broad, and the researchers note that additional studies are needed to drill down into which occupational groups lose the most work hours due to unplanned dental care — and what this mean in terms of lost wages and productivity. If more could be learned about the economic impact of a lack of preventive oral health care, employers and insurers might begin to consider preventive dental care as a key component of effective employer-sponsored wellness programs


  1. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2017 Employer Health Benefits Survey. Available at: Accessed August 15, 2018.
  2. Kelekar U, Naavaal S. Hours lost to planned and unplanned dental visits among U.S. adults. Prev Chronic Dis. 2018;15:170225.


From Decisions in Dentistry. September 2018;4(9):46.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

African American woman brushing teeth.
Poor Oral Health May Increase Risk of Pancreatic Cancer Among African American Women

A Boston University School of Medicine study has found African American...

DMG Applauds Arizona Clinic Serving Uninsured, Low-Income Children

DMG, a leading manufacturer of dental restorative materials and preventive products, proudly supports the efforts of the CARE Center...

water fluoridation
Colgate Announces Partnership with Boys & Girls Club of America

Colgate has expanded its Bright Smiles, Bright Futures oral health education...

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Although oral cancer is the sixth most common form of cancer, awareness...

All-In-One Patient Engagement Suite

Legwork is an all-in-one patient engagement suite built from the ground...

Cavex Cream Alginate For Exceptional Detail

Cavex Cream Alginate closely approaches silicone quality. Cavex Cream Alginate is...

3M Introduces New Universal Restorative

New material ensures strong and esthetic restorations while simplifying the shading...

Premier Dental Vac Attak
Premier Dental Launches Vac Attak GREEN

Premier® Dental has launched Vac Attak™ GREEN, a new high-performance evacuation system...