How Do Millennials Value Dental Benefits from Employers in 2018?

April 30, 2018

millennials sitting on bench office table.jpg

We’ve had many years now to discuss and debate how the millennial generation impacts they way American businesses operate, including their hiring and personnel management practices. While varying opinions still abound, one thing that everyone agrees on at this point is that Americans born in the 1980s to mid 1990s are — and will continue to be — one of the most important contemporary generations of consumers and employees since the Baby Boomers of the 50’s and early 60’s.

So, how these twenty- and thirty-somethings view subjects like employee benefit programs isn’t just an interesting subject for conversation. It can actually be a serious factor in whether companies in 2018 are able to attract and retain a quality workforce, and, by extension, whether those companies succeed or fail.

To narrow down this important subject, let’s consider just dental benefits offered by employers in 2018: How much value do millennials place on dental benefits, and what should that mean for employers?

Millennials care about their health

“In the 2016 Employee Benefit Research Institute survey, 72% of workers considered dental and vision insurance to be extremely or very important. This figure has increased from 2014, when only 66% held this opinion.”

This trend continues into 2018, with millennials driving workplace sentiment by their sheer numbers. In fact, millennials are more interested in workplace wellness than their counterparts in other generations, and more likely to stay at their jobs because of it.

Another new study indicates that millennials are actively seeking out jobs that offer personalized, voluntary health benefits like vision and dental coverage. And, they are more likely to stay in a job that offers these options. "56% of millennials said integrated health and wellness programs would make their employer more attractive to future employees, and 57% said such programs would help increase their overall satisfaction with their employer, compared to 43% for all other generations."

"72% of workers considered dental and vision insurance to be extremely or very important. This figure has increased from 2014, when only 66% held this opinion." -EBRI Survey

There’s a very practical reason behind the value this"generation places on voluntary benefits. A 2017 Aflac WorkForces Report reveals that “77% of employees expect their employers to offer dental insurance… An important reason for the increased interest in voluntary benefits is the Millennial generation’s desire for benefit packages that can be personalized to their needs.”

Today, many millennials struggle with at least $35,000 in student loan debt and have experienced a weak economy leading up to or through some period of their careers thus far. Many people in this demographic remain on their parent’s medical insurance as long as possible. However, the above report states, “employer-sponsored financial wellness programs can help with financial stressors such as student loans, debt consolidation and tax issues.” This is an important consideration as millennials mature in their careers.

A deeper look at their teeth

A recent article reported the results of a study indicating that millennials are not taking care of their teeth properly: “three in ten millennials studied only brush their teeth once a day... The average millennial surveyed has gone more than two days at a time without brushing their teeth at least once… and, over half of those polled (56%) are worried about losing teeth due to their oral health.”

A study conducted by the American Dental Association in 2017 came to some very similar results:

  • Decaying teeth and gum problems make one in three young adults aged 18 to 34 (33%) reluctant to smile.
  • About one in five have cut back on socializing as a result of dental problems.
  • 28% say the appearance of their teeth and mouth undermines their ability to interview for a job.
  • More than 30% of young adults have untreated tooth decay (the highest of any age group)
  • 35% have trouble biting and chewing
  • 38% find life in general “less satisfying” due to teeth and mouth problems.

Dental benefits to the rescue… right?

Despite the value millennials place on dental benefits, and the obvious need they have to take better care of their oral health, the ADA study went on to reveal that “only 30% of millennials are visiting the dentist each year,” and finances are the main factor.

“Cost is the biggest obstacle to affordable dental care at any age, ADA surveys show, but millennials appear to be the hardest hit.” Another important factor is the rise of the gig economy: many older millennials work part-time or are self-employed freelancers, making them ineligible for employer-sponsored health insurance.

Recent figures from the ADA show that, while cost is certainly a large contributing factor, the number one reason for not visiting the dentist among 18- to 35-year-olds is, “My mouth is healthy and I don’t need dental care.”  

What will help millennials improve their oral health?

With all of the above in mind, it’s clear that improving oral health for millennial generation requires a multi-pronged approach:

If you’re an employer, attracting and retaining great talent has to be important to you. And, at this point, millennials are, by far, your greatest source of talent. So, how are you going to approach this situation?

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