Don’t overlook oral health during ACA open enrollment

Now that open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has opened, Tennesseans have the opportunity to shop for health care coverage until February 2015, facing important decisions about next year’s benefits.

When you’re enrolling for health coverage for the first time, or adding new coverage options, it’s important not to overlook your family’s oral health. When evaluating health plans that include dental coverage, make sure you understand the benefits, as they differ from medical coverage.

In the Health Insurance Marketplace, or HealthCare.gov, you can get dental coverage two ways: as part of a health plan, or by itself through a separate, standalone dental plan. It’s important to understand that under the health care law, dental insurance is treated differently for adults and children 18 and under.

Dental coverage for children is an “essential health benefit,” or EHB. This means if you’re getting coverage for someone 18 or younger, dental coverage must be available as part of a health plan or as a standalone plan. While it must be available to you, you do not have to buy it. This is not the case for adults. Insurers don’t have to offer adult dental coverage.

This is why it’s important to make sure you have dental benefits, as they factor heavily into maintenance of good oral health and overall well-being. Oral health issues are generally preventable, and having dental benefits encourages regular check-ups. Many people who purchase protection start to benefit immediately. We know that oral health is essential to overall health. Good oral health improves a person’s ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and make facial expressions to show feelings and emotions.

Studies suggest that people with dental benefits are almost 50 percent more likely to visit the dentist every six months to get the care they need. If you have benefits, you are able to prevent dental problems or get treatment before a problem becomes more serious, and save money on your dental care costs.

Studies also show your dental health can affect other health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. And many health conditions have oral symptoms that provide clues to their onset. Although seeing a dentist is no substitute for a visit to a physician, regular dental checkups may tell the dentist much about your overall health.

These are just a few reasons why it’s important to provide your family with dental coverage. More information on oral health benefits and the ACA Marketplace can be found at www.deltadentaltn.com. Delta Dental of Tennessee is committed to supporting efforts that enhance the health and well-being of those in our community by improving oral health in our state.

We want to help create more smiles in 2015.

Philip Wenk, D.D.S., is CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee, the state’s largest provider of oral health coverage and benefits.