FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Author: Delta Dental (Page 1 of 44)

Reminder: Complete your annual General Compliance and FWA training

Are you a Medicare Advantage dentist? If so, remember to complete your annual General Compliance and Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA) training. This training is a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requirement that allows you to participate in the Medicare Advantage network.

Who needs to complete this training?

You need to complete this training if you’re a Medicare Advantage contracted dentist with any of the following companies:

  • Delta Dental of California – CA
  • Delta Dental of the District of Columbia – DC
  • Delta Dental of Pennsylvania – PA & MD
  • Delta Dental of West Virginia, Inc. – WV
  • Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc. – DE
  • Delta Dental of New York, Inc. – NY
  • Delta Dental Insurance Company – AL, DC, FL, GA, LA, MS, MT, NV, TX and UT

Your training must be completed within 90 days of joining the network and then once annually.

What do I need to do to be compliant?

In addition to completing the FWA training, you’re required to have a written ethics guide and code of business conduct in place for your practice. To meet this requirement, you can incorporate a copy of Delta Dental’s Ethics Guide (PDF) into your practice guidelines.

If you still need to complete the FWA training, don’t forget to also incorporate Delta Dental’s Fraud in Federal Health Care Programs guide into your training.


For additional Medicare Advantage compliance and training information, see Delta Dental’s trainings and events for dentists.

Grow your business and make a difference with the Legion network

You may be familiar with the Community Care Network (CCN) and Medicare Advantage networks that serve Veterans and senior citizens, respectively. But have you heard about Delta Dental Legion? If you’re looking to grow your patient base or give back to your community by serving people who serve others, joining Legion is a great way to do both. 

Joining the Legion network lets you provide care to federal workers, postal employees and more. When members go to the Federal Employees Dental Program page, they’ll be able to find you with just a simple search.

What is Delta Dental Legion?

Legion is Delta Dental’s network of dentists who are contracted to offer care to federal employees and retirees. They support federal government programs like FEDVIP and CCN. Veterans are primarily served by CCN, while FEDVIP is intended for active federal employees, annuitants, retirees and their family members.

Are there special requirements to join the Legion network?

Joining the Legion network is nearly as simple as becoming a Delta Dental PPO™ dentist. The only added step is submitting a valid photo ID, such as your driver’s license, for documentation.

I want to grow my business and provide care to federal employees. How do I join Delta Dental Legion?

Joining is simple! Just email us at FSPS@delta.org for a Legion application and agreement packet. The packet will be sent to you by email. Then all you have to do is return the signed and completed application and the required credentialing documents.

A program to ease the dental assistant shortage

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the workforce, especially in the dental industry. A shortage of qualified employees, particularly dental assistants, has made finding and hiring dental office staff a daunting task. A recent survey found that while almost 40% of dentists were actively seeking dental assistants, more than 85% of them reported the process to be either “extremely” or “very” challenging.

In an effort to support the dental industry and create employment opportunities, Delta Dental has partnered with the California Dental Association (CDA) and California Labor and Workforce Development Agency on the initiative Community Care Foundation to create Smile Crew CA.

What is Smile Crew CA?

Smile Crew CA is a statewide California program launched to provide residents, particularly those who lost jobs during the pandemic, with new employment opportunities as dental assistants. The program offers the opportunity to learn necessary skills for a dental assisting career, including dental terminology, HIPAA compliance and infection control protocols, as well as required certifications.

How Smile Crew CA works

The four-week training combines an online self-led learning module and classroom instruction with on-the-job training, and it offers up 160 hours of paid work experience. The program includes:

  • 15 hours per week of in-classroom instruction
  • 8-12 hours per week of shadowing in a dental practice
  • Interview preparation
  • Onboarding and offboarding assistance
  • A certificate of completion

No previous experience is required. To be eligible, applicants must be 18 years of age or older, have a high school diploma or GED, be literate in English and eligible to work in the United States.

How Smile Crew CA is helping

To date, nearly 80 participants have completed the program, and all have either been placed in open positions in dental offices for on-the-job training or are completing their externships before placement.

Smile Crew CA is a win-win for both dentists and the community, said Kevin Ryan, Delta Dental’s Director of Foundation and Corporate Social Responsibility.

“By getting people back to work in good, high-paying jobs in health care, we can do social good by building up the oral health infrastructure of the state of California,” Ryan said. “But in addition, we can give providers what they really need right now, which is qualified, trained and certified registered dental assistants.”

Ryan added that Smile Crew CA is just one part of an ongoing effort by Delta Dental to increase access to care across the state of California.

“We want to increase access to care in every conceivable way,” Ryan said. “Expanding quality oral health care is our purpose.”

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Alan Bui

Selling hot dogs may not sound like the most logical starting point for a career in dentistry. But Alan Bui, DDS, who grew up helping out with his family’s hot dog truck in Washington, D.C., says he loved befriending the truck’s regular customers. Cultivating relationships that could sometimes last for years made him realize that a career in dentistry — with its close, long-lasting interpersonal relationships between doctor and patients — would be the perfect fit for him.

Dr. Bui graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 2020. We reached out to him at his office Simply Beautiful Smiles in Abington, Pennsylvania, to discuss his first few years as a dentist, his advice for others just starting out in the field and what he sees as the biggest challenge for dentistry today.

You grew up in northern Virginia and the D.C. area. Why did you decide to practice in Abington, Pennsylvania?

I went to dental school at University of Maryland. I got a position for my residency at Jefferson Abington Hospital in Pennsylvania. It’s about five minutes from where I work right now. My girlfriend and I liked it a lot, so we decided to stay and make this our new home. I love it here.

How and when did you decide to become a dentist?

I grew up in a working-class family that owned a hot dog truck in D.C. When I was selling hot dogs, I would see a lot of the same faces. I could catch up with them every day, and I really saw them throughout their lives. I knew I wanted to do something very personal. I knew I wanted to see people on a continual basis. I also loved science. Dentistry was the culmination of both those things. I can treat patients, get to know the story of their life, their family. I can see them throughout the years and really take care of them. I’m also able to apply a love of science to that. Dentistry was just the perfect fit.

Can you tell me about your work providing free dental care through Mission of Mercy events? Why do you think it’s important to give back to the community that way?

Dr. Bui works with Mission of Mercy in Pennsylvania, a free dental clinic for underserved Pennsylvanians.

Mission of Mercy is a group of dentists who organize events that offer two days of free dental care. A bunch of people line up at 4 in the morning, and we just volunteer our time doing procedures like extractions, fillings, even root canals. We’re there pretty much the whole day, starting at 6 am and finishing maybe 6 pm.

When I was growing up, my family wasn’t exactly poor, but we didn’t have health insurance and we didn’t have the money for things like dental care. I don’t remember having regular dental visits growing up. Luckily, I had good oral hygiene, but I can imagine many people in similar or worse circumstances where they don’t have insurance and can’t afford the dental care. Having a set day where they can access free care makes a big difference in their lives.

What advice would you give to other young dentists just starting out?

Some personal advice: Be honest. Patients know when you’re being honest with them. They can see it. The stress of dentistry goes away when you’re honest with yourself and honest with your patients. Being honest makes a big difference in having a good career.

A consistent challenge for dentists that’s becoming particularly thorny at this time is staffing. Do you have any advice or insight to give other dentists on the issue?

My advice would be: Take the time to check in with your team. Just now, I was having lunch with my team, and we were talking about our days, about life. Make sure everything’s OK with them, and always ask if they have any concerns or questions.

What do you love most about being a dentist?

Talking to patients. Addressing their nerves and anxiety. For me the best feeling is when a patient comes in nervous — you can tell by the way they talk and their body language. But once you take the time to gain their trust, to be honest with them, and have all that nervousness go away, it’s a really good feeling. It’s a great thing to have as a dentist.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for dentistry today?

I’m still a relatively young dentist, but from what I’ve experienced so far, it’s finances — whether or not a patient can afford things out of pocket. When I try to tell a patient they need something for the best long-term prognosis and the best outcome, it’s usually the thing they can’t afford. The biggest challenge is financial access to care.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like physical activity. A lot of dentists can develop back problems, so I’m always at the gym or playing basketball. It’s almost always something physical. I hike a lot with my girlfriend. I like to be active.


Congratulations to Dr. Bui of Simply Beautiful Smiles for being our Dental Health Partner of the Month, and a big thank-you for taking the time to share his thoughts with us!

The dental office and mental health: what you need to know

Dentistry can be a stressful and challenging profession. Teams like yours can often face depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. For Mental Health Awareness Month this May, take some time to get a closer look at why many dentists and their staff face mental health problems and what you can do to improve overall well-being in your office.

Dentistry and mental health

The percent of dentists diagnosed with anxiety more than tripled in 2021 compared to 2003, according to the 2021 Dentist Health and Well-Being Survey Report from the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA also found 13% of the dentists reported that they suffered from depression, while it’s estimated that only 3.8% of the general population is affected.

The challenging, demanding work of a dentist’s office can affect the well-being not just of dentists but of office staff, as well. Dentistry can be an especially stressful profession because dentists and their staff often:

  • Work in isolation in confined, small, sometimes windowless spaces
  • Deal with time constraints, economic challenges and other business-related pressures, many of which have only worsened with the advent of COVID-19
  • Perform stressful procedures on a sensitive part of the body with no room for error
  • Deal with long working hours and a heavy workload
  • Face an unfavorable public perception of dentists and dentistry
  • Work with patients who may loathe or resent visiting the office
  • Provide care for others on a day-to-day basis and may not be as accustomed to caring for themselves
  • Are often high achievers who may view reaching out for help as a sign of weakness or failure

Know the signs

As a dentist, you’re trained to identify oral pathology by clinical evidence, diagnostic testing and a patient’s own account. But identifying mental health problems can be very different. Signs related to mental health issues are most often manifested as behavioral changes or they’re experienced internally by the affected individual in the way he or she thinks and feels.

Common signs and symptoms of someone dealing with depression, anxiety or other common mental health issues include:

  • Behavior that is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, critical, indecisive or disorganized
  • Reduced productivity or frequent absence from work
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and other pleasurable activities
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and other social activities
  • Expressions of negativity or feeling “helpless,” “burned out,” “lost” or “hopeless”
  • Frequent complaints of tiredness, headaches, stomach problems, back pain or other aches and pains
  • Changes in sleep, such as insomnia or oversleeping
  • Changes in weight or diet, such as eating more or less than usual
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications

These symptoms may increase in severity and frequency over time. In advanced cases, affected individuals may lose their ability to support the team and function in the office.

What you can do

Raise awareness and reduce the stigma

Make sure you and your staff can talk openly about problems and reach out for help without negative judgment. As an office leader, you can model this behavior by talking openly and honestly about stress and problems you may be experiencing. Remember that your colleagues and staff could be experiencing similar issues, so openly sharing can be comforting and encouraging. If you don’t suffer from mental health problems, work to be empathic and supportive of those who do.

Resources and assistance should be available and accessible, and using them should never threaten someone’s job or reputation. Consider adding an employee assistance program (EAP) to the offered benefits at your practice if you haven’t already.

Take care of your emotional health

Here are some tips for self-care during stressful times:

Know where to turn for help

The following free resources can help promote mental health in the dental office:

Other mental health resources include:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255). Provides 24/7 free, confidential support for people in distress as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.
  • NAMI. The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides advocacy, education, support and public awareness to individuals and families affected by mental illness.  
  • SAMHSA. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. Their resources include a helpline at 800-985-5990.

The mind, just like the mouth, requires constant care. Optimal mental health is a crucial part of your practice success and your overall well-being. Don’t neglect mental well-being in your office or feel shame or stigma about needing to reach out for help.

Meet Dr. Jessica Buehler, Director of Dental Affairs

Whether she’s motorcycling through the Alps or hiking through Southeast Asia to bring aid where it’s needed most, Dr. Jessica Buehler approaches what she does with passion, courage and commitment. That includes her work rewriting Delta Dental’s Quality Improvement Plan and bettering the oral health of members through her wellness webinars as Delta Dental’s Director of Dental Affairs.

We recently caught up with Dr. Buehler to discuss her work at Delta Dental, her time as a frontline provider during the early days of COVID and her dual passions for traveling and musical theater.

I think a lot of people, including even some dentists, might be surprised to learn that a dental insurance company like Delta Dental has dentists on staff. Can you tell us about the work you do for Delta Dental?

My work is to support our quality program. Insurance plans are regulated by the Department of Insurance and other regulatory bodies to ensure that the care is appropriate. It takes clinicians to be a part of that process so that key decisions about care and quality aren’t made by laypeople. They’re made by clinicians who have practiced and treated patients just like our dentists.

What initially led you to dentistry as a career?

I was overseas on the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama working with an indigenous tribe on a summer mission trip. I volunteered to help a Panamanian dentist who was assigned by the government  to do health work on the island. I saw severe infections — people who had no access to care. It opened up my heart to this way to impact the world; it showed me how much dentists can improve people’s lives, not only in the U.S. but also overseas where people don’t have access to care.

What are the biggest rewards of your work now?

I feel my ability to impact oral health in this country is much bigger working for a plan. When you’re working as a chairside dentist, your impact is limited to only those patients you touch or the community events you volunteer at. Right now, I’m giving enrollee wellness webinars that are live-cast across the country to hundreds of enrollees at once. Having an impact on a stage that’s much bigger is really fun for me.

What do you miss most about being a chairside dentist? What do you miss least?

I miss the connection with my patients. You don’t realize when you go into dental school as a young person that your patients follow you for years and years. I saw couples get married and have babies. I saw babies grow into high schoolers. I saw couples get divorced and people pass. You are an intimate part of people’s lives over time. It feels like you’re checking in with old friends every time you see these patients. And when I went through those big life events like getting married and having a baby, my patients were there for me. I’m separated from that now, and I miss that.

In terms of what I miss the least: staffing. Staffing is impossible right now. Overall, dentistry is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It’s not for the faint of heart. 

I was so impressed to learn that you were a frontline provider during the early days of the COVID pandemic. It’s only been a couple years since then, but many of us have forgotten (or blocked out!) how very scary that time was, how many unknowns there were. Can you tell me about your work during that time?

When COVID hit, I was a regional clinical director supervising over 80 clinicians and specialists in Seattle. We were the epicenter of when it was first blowing up. Things were happening very fast, and there was very little guidance at that time, but we knew we had to do something to help. We had to make tough decisions about closing our offices: We had around 30 offices, and we went down to four.

The government was coming into dental offices and taking PPE, but we were expected to care for patients. My husband’s in construction, so he got a welding face shield for me and a construction and painting P100 respirator with a mask over the end. It wasn’t just about keeping myself safe. I was dealing with a lot of anxiety trying to keep my team safe. Some of my colleagues who worked for me had at-risk relatives at home. Some of them had health conditions. I was driving around the state to gather whatever supplies I could find in the construction world to provide to my doctors who were working those frontlines. It was a really scary time.

What do you think are some of the most important things Delta Dental can do to help maintain strong, positive relationships with dentists?

I think being empathetic to how hard dentistry is. It’s easy to go into a dental office and think a dentist is just a “tooth-counter.” I’ve had people say to me, “You make way too much money for what you do.” But a lot of people have no idea what dentists do! It’s a really hard job. It’s even hard on your body, too. You have to manage the emotions of your patients; you have to manage your staff. It’s challenging to be a business leader and a clinician and everything else.

Speaking of playing multiple roles, I was interested to learn that you have a background in musical theater. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Do you feel that your work in theater and performance helped inform your daily work as a dentist at all? Do the two pursuits have anything in common?

My parents always said, “Do whatever you want. We know you’ll succeed at whatever you decide.” So, I got really involved in musical theater and lighting design when I was in college. I loved the theater, but I realized I was a bit too organized and Type A to hang forever in that world…

I still love and appreciate the theater, but I come from a science family, and I almost felt dentistry was a calling. Once I got it into my brain, I couldn’t get it out. But, the things I learned in the theater — to ground yourself, to speak and perform with confidence — are really important and have helped me grow a lot as a provider.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I’m an avid reader. I run a book club for a community inclusion group at Delta Dental, Women@Delta. I love everything outdoors: stand-up paddleboarding, snow skiing, camping, hiking, wakeboarding, all of it. Just put me outdoors and I’m a happy girl! I love to travel. I did a motorcycle tour through the Alps, hitting seven countries in Europe with my dad. He’s passed now, so that’s one of my favorite memories… I love Thailand. I love Australia. I’ve done work in Southeast Asia in countries that aren’t even open to Western aid. I backpacked in and brought dental tools and taken teeth out, all sorts of crazy stuff. I have a family now, so I don’t do as many risky things now, but I still love to travel!

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