FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

5 ways to find new patients in a pandemic

Not only did COVID-19 cause many practices to temporarily shut their doors last spring, it has also led to a sustained reduction in patient volume for many practices across the country. So what should you do to attract new patients to your dental practice? Here are five possible approaches.

1. Identify your most valued patients

Like any business, some of your patients bring more value to your practice than others. These patients are those who return for regular treatment, who don’t skip appointments and who recommend your practice to their friends and family members. These are also exactly the age groups and demographics you should focus your outreach towards.

What do your most valued patients have in common? What do they look for in a practice, and where do they go for information? When you have those answers, you’ll have a much better idea of where to reach them, and what messages to use.

2. Embrace the internet

Your advertising and outreach should reach potential patients where they are, whether it’s in their temporary home office or from the device in their pocket.

Take the time to make sure your practice has a website, and brush up on the basics of SEO optimization. The easier it is for a search engine to read your page, the more likely you’ll show up higher in their results.

Ensure you have a social media presence, and keep your practice’s details up to date, including your address and office hours.

3. Be visible in your community

None of us are separate from the communities we live in, especially in times of crisis. If you don’t already, consider taking the time to volunteer for a local organization or provide your services to community members in need. You can invest in your community by delivering a meal, offering free treatment to low-income veterans or volunteering for a local nonprofit.

4. Take first place in first impressions

The first time a patient visits your practice, whether it’s through a teledentistry exam or an in-person visit, will set the tone for how this person view you and your practice. Attentive staff, visible safety features and a few small office adjustments can be the difference between repeat business and an angry Yelp review. With a positive experience, you can turn a single cleaning into a lifelong patient.

5. Join more networks

When you’re part of a dentist network, you’re more likely to attract patients whose insurance favors — or requires — visiting a dentist from that network. If you haven’t already, consider joining Delta Dental PPO™, DeltaCare® USA or Delta Dental’s Medicare Advantage networks.


If the pandemic has taken a toll on your patient volume, following the steps above can help you rebuild your business. They may also give you extra tools and strategies to weather the next crisis, whatever it may be.

SmileWay Wellness Benefits help patients stay healthy

More patients are becoming aware of the way that health issues can manifest in the mouth and oral health issues can exacerbate other medical conditions. With serious issues like heart disease being responsible for so many deaths in the U.S., your patients may be interested in learning how good dental health can improve their overall health. For patients who have medical conditions that affect their oral health, SmileWay® Wellness Benefits may be available to help meet their needs.

Who’s eligible for SmileWay Wellness Benefits?

Not all patients are eligible for SmileWay Wellness benefits. To claim these benefits, patients must:

  • Have a Delta Dental PPO™ plan
  • Belong to a group that offers SmileWay Wellness Benefits
  • Have chosen to opt in to the program

Members who have been diagnosed with any of the following are eligible for expanded coverage:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stroke

What are the benefits?

Members whose plans offer SmileWay Wellness Benefits are eligible for these added benefits each calendar or contract year:

  • 100% coverage for one scaling and root planning procedure per quadrant (D4341 or D4342)
  • and 100% coverage for four of the following in any combination:
    • Prophylaxis (D1110 or D1120)
    • Periodontal maintenance procedure (D4910)
    • Scaling in the presence of moderate or severe gingival inflammation (D4346)

If you have patients with medical issues that necessitate extra dental care, find out if they’re eligible for SmileWay Wellness Benefits. These benefits can help keep them both smiling and healthy!

Exploring the connection between COVID-19 and oral health

Illustration of a woman surrounded by a list of the oral symptoms of COVID-19 that are listed in the article.

Chest pain, difficulty breathing and fever are three signs of COVID-19 that are frequently discussed, but there is evidence that COVID-19 could have oral symptoms as well.

Oral symptoms of COVID-19

  • Dry mouth and loss of taste and smell. Dry mouth and loss of taste and smell are two symptoms reported by many COVID-19 patients, according to research published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology (September 2020). These can be some of the first and only symptoms exhibited in some cases.
  • Excessive salivation and angular cheilitis. Conversely, hypersalivation is also a potential symptom, according to a case-series and literature review in Oral Diseases (October 2020). Hypersalivation can contribute to issues like angular cheilitis (inflammation of the corners of the mouth), since the salivary enzymes in excess saliva can irritate the skin.
  • Bad breath. The SARS-CoV-2 virus can cause changes to the surface of the tongue and the chemicals in saliva. These changes may lead to the development of halitosis (bad breath), according to a letter in Special Care in Dentistry (November 2020). However, more research needs to be done, since there are a variety of factors that can contribute to more noticeable bad breath. For example, wearing a mask may make a patient more aware of the smell of his or her breath or encourage mouth breathing, which can contribute to bad breath. Bad breath is also a common side effect of several over-the-counter medicines used to treat COVID-19 at home.
  • Oral ulcers and mouth rashes. Several patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 were also diagnosed with oral ulcers, according to research published in Oral Diseases in May 2020.Another potential symptom is the presence of a rash on the upper palate of the mouth. Various types of internal rash were found in six of 21 patients with confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19, according to a study in JAMA Dermatology (July 2020). Certain rash patterns are more commonly associated with viral infections, and the rashes found in COVID-19 patients are consistent with those patterns. 

Gum disease and the severity of COVID-19

Periodontal pockets could be a favorable reservoir for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to research published in Medical Hypotheses (October 2020).

There is also some evidence that inflammation caused by periodontal disease could contribute to the severity of a patient’s COVID-19 symptoms. This is because inflammation prompts the release of interleukin-6 (IL-6), which can damage tissue in the lungs and blood vessels. Damage to these body parts can lessen the amount of oxygen a person gets and contribute to COVID-19 progressing faster.

COVID-19 joins a number of other diseases worsened by the presence of periodontitis, including diseases of the brain, heart and lungs.

Problems with diagnosis

Oral complications because of a COVID-19 infection have been poorly described and potentially underreported, likely due to the fact that most oral symptoms are unlikely to be fatal or dangerous. This has left gaps in the early diagnosis of the onset and characterization of such symptoms, as well as their associations with COVID-19 outcomes.

One of the problems with treating COVID-19 is that two people rarely have the exact same symptoms. Some people infected with the disease may only experience loss of smell, while others experience many other symptoms. Further research will provide a greater understanding of how the coronavirus interacts with the body. As dentists become aware of the variety of oral symptoms associated with COVID-19, they may even be able to use that information to detect otherwise asymptomatic cases in their patients.

Introducing a new provider inquiry form

A new provider inquiry form is now available. We’ve updated the previous provider dispute form by adding a claim resubmission category, which makes it easier for you to submit an inquiry about a previously adjudicated claim. The new form will help us improve our response time and resolve your claim inquiries more quickly.

You can print the form and use it as a cover sheet for claim resubmission or adjustment, or to provide additional information or correct a claim. Visit the the Delta Dental administrative and claim forms page to find the form and more.

Medicare Advantage updates for 2021

For 2021, Delta Dental will welcome a new Medicare Advantage partner, and several other partners will update their offerings.

  • Astiva Health Plan: A new partner for 2021, this DHMO Medicare plan has 1,500 members in California’s Orange and San Diego Counties.
  • AvMed: This Miami, Florida-based partner will offer two new DHMO plans in addition to the current plan. The new Basic Plus adds periodontal services to the current plan. The Comprehensive plan provides rich benefits that include implant services.
  • Chinese Community Health Plan: CCHP will offer two new plans to their membership in San Francisco, the preventive-only plan (mandatory with medical coverage) and a Medi-Medi wrap plan, which will enhance member Medicaid benefits. This California group is increasing to 5,000 members with the addition of these two plans.
  • Hometown Health: In northern Nevada, a new preventive-only plan will join the two current options currently available. In southern Nevada, the comprehensive plan will replace the preventive plan. All dental plans are mandatory for 2021, which adds 7,000 members to our partnership.
  • Memorial Hermann: This Texas partner will introduce Memorial Hermann Advantage Plus, a mandatory comprehensive PPO plan. The current Memorial Hermann Advantage plan is a DHMO product.
  • Molina Healthcare: This partner offers plans in California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. While there are no changes to the current plan design in these states, there are increases in the annual maximum for several markets. New for 2021 are wrap plans in Idaho and South Carolina, in which Medicare benefits enhance Medicaid benefits.

Are you part of our Medicare Advantage dentist network? If you haven’t opted in, consider this: Every day for the next decade, about 10,000 people will turn 65. And by 2030, approximately 18% of the nation’s population will be 65 or older, according to Pew Research Center population projections.

Today, nearly a million people nationwide have a Medicare Advantage plan through Delta Dental. And as Medicare Advantage plans continue to expand, your practice has a great opportunity to find new patients.

The advantages of joining our Medicare Advantage dentist network include:

  • Your practice will be listed in our Medicare Advantage network directory
  • You’ll retain current Medicare Advantage patients, whose fee-for-service plans require that they visit a Medicare Advantage network dentist
  • You’ll acquire new Medicare Advantage patients looking for an in-network dentist

Interested? To apply for participation in the Delta Dental Medicare Advantage provider network, please send an email to medadv@delta.org and we’ll reply with an application and contract.

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