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Delta Dental Plan of Indiana.

Employers may be down in the mouth about the increasing cost of workers' comp and employee health care, but paying attention to dental health can make a world of difference.

Employers can team up with employees, dentists and physicians to improve employees' overall health by being alert to the signs and symptoms of disease as they manifest around the mouth and jaw. Increased productivity and decreased health-care costs are two benefits of oral health awareness.

Bacteria can enter the body through the mouth and gums; however, it is less commonly understood that symptoms of cancer, HIV, leukemia, heart disease, hypertension, eating disorders, diabetes, tuberculosis, anemia and hemophilia can be detected during a regular dental visit (see below).

Jack E. Nicewander, D.D.S., of Indianapolis, has seen many medical problems over the years. "It's not typical:' he says, "but I might see mouth lesions which end up being cancerous or bleeding gums which might mean blood problems, such as leukemia. With routine dental X rays, I might detect tumors or even blocked arteries."

People are more aware of potential problems and want early detection, says Nicewander, although they are sometimes hesitant. Recently Nicewander had a patient present with a throat lesion. "I was glad he came in to check it out;' he says. "I would rather check a possible illness than not:' The lesion turned out to be benign.

Some diagnoses are not as straightforward. A young girl visited a dentist's office with a mouth full of canker sores and appeared very pale. The dentist's referral to a physician confirmed that she not only had anemia but Crohn's disease (chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.)

The above examples highlight important lessons. Employees need to communicate health concerns to their health care providers, even if their concerns seem inconsequential and unrelated.

Employees, employers, physicians and dentists should be alert to oral signs and symptoms of disease and should consider themselves collaborative partners in improving and maintaining employee health.

Annual physicals and regular dental care need to be a priority of the "corporate culture" to ensure employee and business well-being.

Delta Dental Plan of Indiana is operated along with Delta Dental Plan of Ohio by a sister organization, Delta Dental Plan of Michigan. The tri- state operation is the leading group dental benefits provider in the Midwest, paying out more than $1 billion for dental care for over 4.6 million members. For more information, visit

RELATED ARTICLE: What Does Your Mouth Say?

Following are some symptoms or oral manifestations of a variety of medical conditions:

Tuberculosis--Ulcers in back of mouth and sides of tongue

Hypertension--Dry, sore mouth, erosions or red-white spots on cheek, tongue and lips

Valvular Heart Disease--Blue lips and mouth membranes

Congestive Heart Failure-- External jugular veins may be distended. Ruddy complexion, abnormal bleeding

Anorexia/Bulimia--Chemical erosion of tooth enamel, throat redness and swelling, enlarged salivary glands, sweet breath

Peptic Ulcers--Chronic dry mouth, yeast infections, oral sores

Ulcerative Colitis--Small spots coincident with stomach symptoms appear as yellow-gray, shallow, oval ulcers

Hepatitis--Yellow-brown/greenish pigments in mouth membranes on posterior palate and floor of the mouth

Kidney/Urinary tract syndromes--Persistent sore throat that involves tonsils, uvulva, soft tissues

Multiple Sclerosis--Pain, numbness of facial palate structures may be first sign of MS

Leukemia--Gum enlargement and spontaneous bleeding, infection, mouth ulcers, enlarged tonsils, sore throat

Anemia--Pale skin and lining of mouth. Tongue smooth, red and glistening

Diabetes--Dry mouth, distinctive breath odor, burning tongue, persistent gum inflammation, periodontal disease, tooth decay

Osteoarthritis--Clicking, popping, joint pain or tenderness, earaches, headaches.

Source: Bricker Langlais, Miller, Oral Diagnosis, Oral Medicine.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:employee health care costs
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Previous Article:Indiana Well-Workplace Guide: Health Plans. (A-W).
Next Article:Indiana Well-Workplace Guide: Health/Fitness Centers. (C-W).

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