FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Upcoming Provider Tools webinars in March

Find out how to manage tasks better and increase productivity by fully utilizing Provider Tools. Attend an information-packed one-hour webinar in March to learn:

  • How to set up your account
  • How to use Provider Tools to manage patient interactions
  • How to submit claims in real-time and track them
  • How to sign up for direct deposit
  • And more!

Don’t miss this opportunity — register today!  Here is the webinar schedule:

Tuesday, March 2, 10 am PT / 1 pm ET

Wednesday, March 10, 11 am PT / 2 pm ET

Thursday, March 18, 9 am PT / Noon ET

Tuesday, March 23, 10 am PT / 1 pm ET

Dentist spotlight: Dr. La Toya C. Morris

Meet Dr. La Toya C. Morris, our Dental Health Partner of the Month. Dr. Morris was born and raised in Inglewood, California, and attended St. Bernard High School in Playa Del Rey. It was during her senior year of high school that she decided to go into the health care industry.

After receiving her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. Morris returned to California and was awarded her California dental license. Today she heads her Los Angeles practice, La Toya C. Morris DDS Inc.

Dr. Morris has sought out the latest trends and developments in the dental field and continually adapts cutting-edge techniques. Her priority is offering family-like hospitality, and her goal is to improve not only her patients’ smiles but also their lives through a great experience and education they can take home with them.

Dr. Morris volunteers her time and experience to organizations that care for underserved patients, and donates one week each year to a health clinic that provides care to the less fortunate. Let’s see what else Dr. Morris has been up to.

Why did you decide to become a dentist?

I decided to become a dentist while I was in high school. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be in health care. I recall sitting on the stairs in our home with my sister and best friend. My sister was reading Black Enterprise magazine, and the issue featured the top 10 professions for that month. My sister mentioned that dentistry was a great profession for women because you could work regular hours and be home in the evening with your family. In other words, unlike a physician, you didn’t have to be on call or spend many hours in the hospital.

How long have you been practicing?

I’ve been practicing dentistry for 21 years.

What is the most rewarding part of your career?

The most rewarding parts of my career are (1) helping people get out of pain, (2) helping patients gain confident smiles and (3) educating patients on good oral health habits to promote excellent oral hygiene.

One of the funniest stories from the dental office?

One of the funniest stories in the dental office is when, after I administered anesthesia to a patient, she asked if I was done. I replied yes and left the room to allow the anesthesia to take effect. In the meantime, I performed an exam in another room. When I returned, the patient I anesthetized was gone. I asked the front office assistant where the patient was, and she replied, “She said you told her she was done.”

We still laugh about this scenario. We called the patient on her cellphone, and I told her that I was only done with her injections and she needed to return to finish treatment. We laughed because the patient told us that all she could think about was treatment being finished. She had to reschedule.

I learned a lesson from that. To make sure patients aren’t confused, I now say, “We’re only finished with giving you anesthesia. We’ll let the medication take effect and I’ll return to complete your treatment.”

What do you consider dentistry’s biggest challenge?

Dentistry’s biggest challenge is getting patients to relax in the dental chair. Each patient is different. Many have had traumatic experiences or have heard horror stories about going to the dentist.

Surprisingly, some adult patients have also mentioned they weren’t brought up going to the dentist and wish their parents had made it a priority. It appears their parents didn’t understand the importance, and these patients realize they could have avoided many of the dental issues they’re facing.

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my daughter and spending time with our family and friends. I also enjoy nature walks, hikes, relaxing at the beach, reading novels, traveling, going to concerts, seeing plays, movies, playing games and eating out.

During Black History Month, we like to ask our partners whether they have a historical African-American figure they admire. Do you have one?

The one historical African-American figure I admire is my dad because he had integrity and was disciplined, hardworking and ambitious. Growing up, I saw these qualities in my dad and how others around him had the utmost respect for him. He was admired, trusted and complimented by many people. My dad had a heart of gold and was loved by all who knew him. Again, as a young child, seeing these qualities in both my parents made me want to have the same characteristics.

The lessons I learned from them influence my work today. I have a huge appreciation for life and want to help others. Getting up in the morning to get ready for work, I know I have a purpose. I like to assure my patients that I’m here for their dental needs. I’m passionate about what I do, and I try to give each patient the undivided attention needed to create the treatment plan that’s most beneficial for their oral care. Most importantly, listening to a patient’s chief complaint and addressing it before proceeding with their other treatment is a priority to me.

My thoughts on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s book Where Do We Go from Here is, as African-Americans, I recognize that we’re very much underrepresented in the dental field. In the past, I’ve volunteered and spoken with students about choosing dentistry as a career, and high school students volunteer in our office to learn more about the field. My doors are open to anyone considering dentistry as a career path. I like to encourage my patients — and everyone else — to consider the dental profession.


We’d like to congratulate Dr. La Toya C. Morris and thank her for her volunteer service. To find out more about Dr. Morris, visit her website.

Cybersecurity for your practice and beyond

It’s easy to believe that cyberattacks won’t happen to you. Why would a criminal choose your office as a target over corporations with more money and assets? Big businesses have plenty of resources to throw at security and firewalls, whereas your office may only have a few basic protocols in place. Better yet, every patient record they get can be sold online for over $400! About 79% of all reported data breaches in the first 10 months of 2020 were against health care entities, according to a report by Fortified Health Security. Understanding what risks exist in your office and proactively addressing them will help keep you and your patients safe, especially with moves towards teledentistry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How data breaches happen

Internet-enabled devices within your office offer many points of entry for a criminal. Any computers, security cameras and tools connected to the internet can be open doors to thieves who want in.

Hacking and IT incidents are the biggest cause of data breaches, accounting for 69% of reported incidents. IT incidents include malware that’s installed by clicking on links in phishing emails or visiting unsecure sites.

The second leading cause was unauthorized access, which resulted in 20% of all breaches. This includes mistakes, like a lost tablet or folder of patient information, or intentional sharing of information by an insider in your office.

Teledentistry and additional risk

Teledentistry, while a fantastic option for reaching patients, opens a new door for cyberattacks. Text messaging and free video chat software aren’t viable options for telehealth, because all communication between you and your patients must be encrypted to be compliant with HIPAA.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it will not penalize health care providers for using popular video chat applications during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a few caveats. You should notify your patients that these apps can introduce privacy risks and you should enable all available encryption and privacy modes when using them.

While some tools without encryption, like Skype and Facebook Messenger, have been given the go-ahead by OCR for use during the pandemic, HIPAA-compliant tools offer better protection of patient data.

Mitigating risks

Although you can never be completely invulnerable to attacks, having strong practices can make the difference between a scare and a nightmare.

The first steps you can take to proactively manage risk are some of the easiest:

  • Wi-Fi. Only use password secured Wi-Fi networks. If your office wants to have a network for patients or staff’s personal devices, create a password protected guest network.
  • Passwords. Use strong passwords on all your office devices. A strong password contains at least 10 characters and includes numbers, symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters. And remember to keep them safe. Don’t create strong passwords only to write them down on a sticky note!
  • Software. Before buying new applications, rigorously vet their compliance with HIPAA. A company might say its product is for health care practices, but that doesn’t mean it complies with laws around protected health information (PHI). And when you buy software, make sure to install updates promptly, since many software updates fix security problems that could be exploited by hackers.
  • Physical documents. If your office plans to dispose of hard copies of documents with patient information, destroy them so that any PHI is indecipherable and cannot be reconstructed.
  • Team protocols. Set up and enforce security protocols with your team. Have a regular, holistic evaluation of your protocols and how well they’re being followed. The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has a great list of tools, training and guidance to help you maintain your office’s strong security practices.

Beyond that, you can greatly reduce the financial burden of a breach by getting cyber insurance that covers the cost of investigating thefts, compensates for fines and penalties and funds lawsuits and legal fees.

If a breach does happen, take action immediately. Determine how the breach occurred and what information was affected. Get in contact with legal counsel before anyone else.

It’s going to take work and will probably be frustrating if you’re just starting out. But by implementing a strong cybersecurity defense, you’ll know you’ve done everything you can to keep your practice and patients safe.

How are dentists recovering from the pandemic?

In the time since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic entered the United States, the future of the dental industry been on relatively shaky footing, though there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Patient volumes are declining

Less than 2% of practices are still closed due to the pandemic, according to the American Dental Association (ADA)’s COVID-19: Economic Impact on Dental Practices, Week of December 19. However, only 39% of practices are fully open with the volume of patients they had before the pandemic. Practices initially experienced gradual growth in the percentage of patients they were seeing compared to 2019. Even so, the number of practices operating with the same volume of patients has declined since August, with patient volumes slipping several times throughout 2020.

Due to cancellations during the second and third quarters, many practices saw holes in their schedules during the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. Usually a practice would have 80% or more of their schedule filled. This year is much different, with the average schedule only 50% full. This dip occurred in part because some appointments in the first half of 2020 were cancelled due to the pandemic and then the appointments were not immediately rescheduled.

Dental care spending has dipped

The dip in patient volume is also a contributor to a projected dip in yearly dental spending. The ADA’s Health Policy Institute predicted in their June 2020 industry model that dental care spending would dip by up to 38% in 2020 and 20% in 2021. Their models didn’t take into account a second or third wave of COVID-19.

Loss of coverage may contribute to decline

Almost 7.7 million workers with employer sponsored insurance (ESI) have lost their coverage due to COVID-19. An additional 6.9 million dependents have lost their insurance coverage due to their family members losing their jobs. The strong link between employment and health insurance coverage has important implications for Americans’ insurance coverage and access to health care, as ESI is the most common form of health insurance in the United States.

Positive changes are coming

There is good news, according to a survey by the Delta Dental Institute, which indicated that nearly three in every four patients believe that routine dental appointments are still important during the pandemic. Most respondents said they were worried about the long-term side effects of missing appointments. The results of this survey may suggest that patients will continue to return to dentists.

What’s more, the estimated rate of COVID-19 cases among dentists is less than 1%, according to a November 2020 study in JADA. This suggests that the current infection control measures seem to be working to prevent infection in dental settings, despite dentistry being flagged as a high-risk profession for COVID-19 infection. With the first waves of widespread vaccinations now underway, the bright light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer. Millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and more are on the way. While we may need to redefine what “normal” means, there’s a possibility that the end of 2021 may see a world in which patient volumes return to a higher percentage of their pre-2020 numbers. With potential for dentists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine and a huge push to get enough people vaccinated for the United States to reach herd immunity, the future is looking bright for dentists who want patients back in their chairs.

Re-credentialing reminder

Delta Dental is required to confirm at least once every three years that our network dentists are professionally qualified based on the standards of national, federal and state accrediting and regulatory agencies.

We will send you a letter and form approximately 90 to 180 days before the end of the three-year period. When you receive this notice from us, please:

  • Complete and return the re-credentialing form (including any required document copies) promptly. The process should take no longer than 60 days to complete.
  • Let us know right away if you received a letter for a dentist who is no longer at your practice location.

We are obligated to terminate your contract as a network dentist if your credential expires. You’ll be able to re-apply to join under the terms of our most current dentist agreement, as long as you meet the credentialing criteria. Your contract might not be the same as before, so don’t wait!

For questions, please contact Provider Concierge at 800-592-0156, Monday through Friday, 7 am to 5 pm PT. You can also email us at providerconcierge@delta.org.

Callback Assist improves your customer service experience

We’re excited to offer a new feature that helps our customer service representatives better serve you. It’s called Callback Assist.

It works like this: When you call us to speak with a customer service representative (CSR), we’ll let you know what your approximate wait time is and give you the option to schedule a call back when a CSR becomes available. If you choose that option, we’ll confirm your phone number and hold your place in the queue.

Now, instead of having to wait on hold, you can hang up. When it’s your turn to speak to a CSR, we’ll call you back. And don’t worry; if you’re busy and can’t take the call immediately, we’ll make three attempts to contact you.

Callback Assist ensures that you’ll never have to wait on hold if you choose not to. You can call us even during peak hours and be assured you’ll always be able to get the service you need, making your interaction with Delta Dental more convenient and satisfying than ever.

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