Insight by UnitedHealthcare Dental

Open Season Exchange 2023: UnitedHealthcare Dental’s Haley Landherr on picking a dental plan that adapts with you

A dental plan is more than just an add-on when making your annual health care insurance selections. You want dental care that supports you and your family at ev...

Caring for your teeth can affect your general well-being.

“There is a pretty important connection actually to your dental health, your gum health, and then to your overall health,” said Haley Landherr, director of business operations and chief of staff at UnitedHealthcare Dental.

Landherr added, dental hygiene “is how your body helps to protect itself against illness. It plays a significant role in your overall well-being.”

Studies have linked gum disease to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes, she said during Federal News Network’s 2024 Open Season Exchange.

“And there’s research that shows that people with gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels,” she said, “and that regular periodontal care can help to improve diabetes care management.”

As you change so do your dental needs

UnitedHealthcare’s Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program plan includes benefits aimed at a total health approach to dental care.

“If you’re managing one or more of these conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, asthma or if you happen to be pregnant, you’re eligible for enhanced coverage that will help you get additional cleanings or different periodontal maintenance,” Landherr said.

She experienced this need personally before giving birth to twins earlier this year. Her dentist emphasized the importance of extra tooth cleanings and flossing, preferably with a water jet device.

“What is so nice about this enhanced coverage is that it gives you some peace of mind,” Landherr said. “Members can focus on other parts of their pregnancy journey and not have to worry about unexpected out-of-pocket costs when it comes to dental care.”

Given that infants soon reach the stage of needing dental care too, Landherr pointed out that people’s dental care requirements change during different stages of life.

“Your oral health is really important through all the stages of your life,” she said and cited the American Dental Association recommendation that dental care start during infancy.

“Make sure you’re cleaning your baby’s gums with a wet washcloth or maybe a child-sized toothbrush,” Landherr said. When teeth appear, use a soft bristle brush with a tiny smear of toothpaste.

“As you get older, it’s important to keep your hygiene up and maintaining your oral health hygiene throughout your life,” she said. ADA recommendations for adults include brushing not only your teeth but also your tongue.

Virtual dental triage? Yep, it’s a thing

People who visit a dentist regularly for cavity and tartar checks might be surprised to find that virtual visits have become part of dental care. Landherr said that UnitedHealthcare Dental plans cover virtual visits.

Acknowledging that a virtual dental visit might be hard to visualize, she described it as the start of a triage situation.

“Dealing with an unexpected dental problem where you have some pain in your mouth, you might try and get in to see a dentist,” she said. “It’s hard to see the dentist; they don’t have availability. Your dental problems probably don’t happen at the most convenient times.”

If the patient can have a video visit and get advice ahead of an in-person visit, it might mitigate the condition and avoid an emergency room visit until the person can be seen by the dentist in the office, Landherr said.

Another benefit of the UnitedHealthcare plan stems from its online presence, she said. The website has enhancements for providers so they can prepare more timely and individualized treatment plans for patients and share information about treatment costs.

To discover more insights and advice shared during the 2024 Open Season Exchange, visit the event page.

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