Dental and Vision Insurance 101: How to Break it Down for Your Employees

Person at dental appointment

“Show me the money!” Perhaps you remember that line from Jerry Maguire. Or, maybe you’ve heard something to that effect when an employee has asked for a raise. And yes, a competitive salary is one great way to attract and retain talent. 

But it’s not the only factor you should consider. Why? Because four in five employees want benefits or perks more than a pay raise. What’s more, 88% of workers say they would give the opportunity for better benefits “some or heavy consideration” before accepting a job. So focusing on benefits beyond your basic health insurance plans is crucial to keep your employees happy—and that starts with dental and vision insurance.  

Discussing vision and dental insurance with your employees might not be top on your list of action items, but making sure they understand their benefits means they’ll actually use them — and healthy employees are productive employees. 

Here are some simple dental and vision insurance benefits definitions to share to your employees. (Feel free to copy-paste…we won’t tell!)

How does dental insurance work?

Even though about two-thirds of Americans have private dental coverage, not all of them know how dental insurance works. When they do, though, they’re more likely to go to the dentist, take their children to the dentist, receive restorative care and experience greater overall health. 

What does dental insurance cover? 

Most dental insurance plans cover seven basic areas of care:

  • Preventive (cleaning, routine office visits)
  • Restorative (fillings and crowns)
  • Endodontics (root canals)
  • Oral surgery (tooth removal, minor surgical procedures)
  • Orthodontics (retainers, braces)
  • Periodontics (scaling, root planning, management of acute infections) 
  • Prosthodontics (dentures and bridges)

Types of dental insurance plans

The main types of dental plans are:

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO): This type of insurance covers most major dental procedures, and pays them as a claim (after the procedure is complete). Employees can choose from a wide network of dental care providers.

  • Pros: Lower premiums (less money comes out of your paycheck each month)
  • Cons: Potentially higher out-of-pocket costs when you do receive care

Dental Health Maintenance Organizations (DHMO)/Capitation Plans: Under a DHMO plan, employees are assigned to a specific in-network dental provider. That provider is then required to offer services at no cost or reduced cost to their set of patients. 

  • Pros: Low/no out-of-pocket costs
  • Cons: Potentially higher premiums (more money comes out of your paycheck each month

How does vision insurance work? 

Many Americans deal with vision issues. Approximately 65% of Americans age 18 and over report wearing some type of glasses, contacts or both, and as many as 16 million people in the U.S. have undiagnosed or uncorrected vision impairments that could be fixed with eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery. Also, more than 150 million Americans use corrective eyewear, spending more than $15 billion annually on eyewear

What does vision insurance cover? 

Although not all vision insurance covers the same items, most comprehensive plans pay for basic care and eyewear. Typical vision insurance coverage supplements major medical coverage by covering at least a portion of the costs related to:

  • Eye exams (including dilation)
  • Eye glasses (including lenses)
  • Contacts

More comprehensive plans at least partially cover surgery and treatment for eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and permanent vision impairment.

Is it worth having vision and dental insurance?

Of course, dental and vision insurance helps your employees get the care they need at an affordable rate. But it can also help you attract and retain talent, and will ultimately boost your company’s bottom line. For example, uncorrected vision problems cost the global economy near $272 billion in lost productivity, and employers gain as much as $7 for every dollar spent on vision coverage. One study found that employers offering vision benefits saved $5.8 billion over four years largely due to preventative care.

lost due to uncorrected vision problems
More than
lost because of untreated oral disease
Employers gain
for every dollar they spend on vision coverage

Employees without dental insurance are more likely to visit the emergency department for dental care, adding to the United States’ already high healthcare spending. More than $45 billion annually is lost in productivity in the U.S. because of untreated oral disease, but dental insurance reduces absenteeism and increases employee loyalty. Oral health treatments can detect more than 100 different diseases based on symptoms found in the mouth, and individuals with dental coverage visit the dentist more often than those without.

Employers, you’re already doing a great job! 

The good news? Most employers already offer dental and vision insurance insurance, and their employees are satisfied with their coverage:

of Gen Z employees aren’t confident they know what open enrollment is
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More than
of Gen Z employees aren’t confident they know what open enrollment is
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The bad news? Employees say choosing their benefits is stressful, and only half understand their benefits. So making sure employees have simple and easy dental and vision insurance definitions is the key to boosting understanding and containing healthcare costs—for you and your employees.

ALEX can play a key role in boosting benefits engagement and understanding, attracting and retaining top talent, driving better financial outcomes and more.

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