Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Category: Community (Page 1 of 3)

See how Delta Dental supports its local communities through the Delta Dental Community Foundation.

How to talk to patients about returning to your office

As a dentist, you know that regular office visits are essential for your patients’ oral health, but your patients might have questions and concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the American Dental Association, 98% of dental practices are open for business, but less than 50% are seeing the same number of patients as before the pandemic.

The ADA has also found that most people are ready to return to their dentist’s office (although some of them may need assurances that they’ll be safe) even if there are COVID-19 cases locally, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ADA are the two most trusted sources of information about whether or not it’s safe to go to the dentist. With all of that in mind, here are some tips on how to get patients back in the office, reassure them of their safety and keep them coming back.

1. Put new safety procedures and practices in place

Reassuring your patients of their safety is an essential first step in encouraging them to return. Dentists’ offices have long been kept meticulously clean to prevent the spread of bloodborne illnesses. The spread of COVID-19, though, has required new practices to address potential infection through saliva droplets. Highlighting these new practices is an excellent opportunity to make your patients feel safer.

For example, these practices may be worth implementing:

  • Have patients wait for their appointments inside their cars rather than inside your waiting room, even if you have the space for them to socially distance.
  • Put up a clear plastic screen between the front desk and the waiting area. This helps to prevent a stray cough or sneeze from spreading saliva droplets when patients are checking in or paying their bill.
  • Install equipment that helps remove germs from the office, such as medical-grade air purifiers.
  • Check patients’ temperature with an infrared thermometer upon their arrival. You’ll want to use a thermometer especially made for use as a wellness device (infrared thermometers that aren’t explicitly made for medical use may be inaccurate when used on the human body.)
  • Have patients do their part, too, such as by performing a peroxide rinse before getting into the chair.

2. Effectively communicate with and listen to your patients

One of the biggest contributors to feelings of fear and uncertainty is a lack of reliable information from a trusted source. When it comes to their oral health, you are your patients’ primary subject matter expert. Explain not just what changes you’re instituting at the office to keep patients safe, but also why you’re making those changes and how they keep patients safe.

It’s important to create opportunities to interact with your patients so that you can keep them informed of the latest changes and persuade them to return when they’re ready. The ADA has found that patients prefer to be communicated with via email, text and phone, in that order.

If you’re using software to communicate with your patients via email or text, let them know:

  • Your office is open for business
  • You’re following new procedures to ensure everyone’s safety
  • You’re available to talk if they have questions or concerns (offering teledentistry appointments is a great way to interact directly with your patients!)

If you’d rather emphasize a human touch, you could have office staff directly call your patients to remind them not to forget check-ups and see if there’s anything your office can do for them.

Also, don’t forget to be an active listener. If you ask your patients their concerns, make sure you indicate that you’re listening attentively and taking their words under consideration.

3. Think outside the box

Finally, when it comes to persuading patients to return and attracting new patients, don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Encourage patients to leave reviews and feedback on social media. A positive review and a description of safety protocols on Yelp or Google can go a long way towards assuring would-be patients that your office is a safe environment.

Similarly, consider updating your practice’s website if you haven’t done so recently. Adding customer testimonials is a good idea, and you can also add photos that highlight changes throughout your office. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you could also create a video walkthrough of your practice to serve as a virtual tour of the office! Or, add videos that highlight new safety practices and equipment you’ve implemented, such as peroxide rinses or medical-grade air purifiers.

We also suggest updating your current office hours on the Delta Dental Provider Tools site to help your patients access care in your office. Patients often use the Provider Directory when looking for contact information, so making sure that your information is up to date and that it matches the info available in other locations (such as your website or Yelp) can help eliminate confusion. Fortunately, logging in to your profile in our Provider Tools and update your office hours is simple!

The ADA’s Health Policy Institute has also found that nearly three out of four people who visited the dentist in 2019 would be comfortable returning right now. Another 11% would be willing to return to the dentist if they had some kind of assurance that their visit would be safe while the remaining 15% are waiting for a vaccine. That means that if you’re seeing fewer than 85% of the patients you were before the pandemic, you might be able to bring more back to your practice. Follow the steps above, and you might get the extra bump in business you need to make the new normal a little more like the old one.

How you can help fight opioid addiction

As an oral health care provider, you’re an essential member in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Many adolescents who abuse opioids have their first encounter with medically prescribed painkillers (such as those prescribed for wisdom tooth removal), according to the National Institutes of Health. The overall percentage of opioids prescribed by dentists increased by 12.9% from 2010 through 2015, so being aware of how to combat overprescribing is more important than ever.

The American Dental Association’s Policy on Opioid Prescribing supports:

  • making continuing education on prescribing opioids and other controlled substances mandatory
  • implementing statutory limits on opioid dosage and prescription duration
  • improving the quality, integrity and interoperability of state drug monitoring programs

Another important aspect of helping to combat opioid addiction is having open and honest discussions with your patients. The ADA has put together resources to help you educate your patients about the addictive qualities of narcotic painkillers. You can find a comprehensive collection of webinars about opioid prevention for dentists. For example, the ADA offers advice on selecting strategies for pain management that are appropriate for the estimated severity of different procedures.

Studies have also found that a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be a more effective pain management tool than simply prescribing opioids, as well. As Dr. Daniel Croley, our Vice President of Network Development, says, “We ask that all dentists consider non-addictive pain management as their first choice. When narcotics are needed, only prescribe the lowest dosage and quantity needed to effectively manage your patients’ pain.”

The opioid epidemic may be too big for any one person to solve, but to quote Dr. Croley, “Together, we can stop the overprescription and abuse of opioids.”

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Sheri Watson-Hamilton

Meet Dr. Sheri Watson-Hamilton, DMD, our Dental Health Partner of the Month. Dr. Watson-Hamilton is passionate about dental health and provides care to uninsured and underserved patients.

Based in South Florida, Dr. Watson-Hamilton works at the Martin Luther King Jr. Clinica Campesina Health Center. This full-service facility provides dental care alongside urgent care, primary care and more. It’s part of the nonprofit health care organization Community Health of South Florida, Inc., or CHI, which offers affordable, quality health care services to local residents.

Why did you decide to become a dentist?

I’ve always wanted to practice in the medical field. As a child I would always ask anyone I was close to, “Let me see your teeth!”

What really helped me decide on dentistry was when I volunteered at a dental office during undergrad. I saw how a patient would come in with pain and receive immediate relief. Patients would come in with self-esteem issues and once their teeth were restored, they’d leave the office smiling confidently — no longer hiding their teeth.

How long have you been practicing?

For 24 years.

Tell us one of your funniest stories from the dental office.

During one of my appointments, I had a set of twins as patients. One was a really great patient — the other was really dramatic. At one of the visits, the dramatic twin was hesitant about the visit, as always. Once the anesthesia was placed, she looked up at me and said, “If you do that again, I’m gonna call 991!” — meaning 911.

What do you consider dentistry’s biggest challenge?

Getting patients to value their teeth and their smile.

What do you do in your free time?

I enjoy spending my free time with my immediate family.

Congratulations, Dr. Sheri Watson-Hamilton! Thank you for your work.

You can find out more about Dr. Sheri Watson-Hamilton and CHI by visiting the CHI website or following the organization on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Exclusive offers on teledentistry tools

To offer you additional teledentistry support, we’ve evaluated the following HIPAA-compliant tools to help you see patients virtually. We’ve also negotiated free trial periods and discounts to smooth any transitions.

  • CareStack offers a complete virtual care management software, allowing you to manage online scheduling, telehealth consultations and patient payments. Start for free and grow your practice.
  • TeleDent by MouthWatch includes advanced video consults, clinical messaging and an intuitive patient portal. Effortlessly organize patients, exams, teams and tasks.
  • Simplifeye offers 24/7 live chat, scheduling, telehealth and payments. Collect consent and seamlessly issue invoices by text and email. Implement your “virtual front desk” overnight for a contact-free, modern solution.
  • MyTeleDentist allows you to see more patients and treat more cases in less time, virtually. Schedule, e‑prescribe and attract new patients.
  • Teledentix is an all-inclusive teledentistry solution, allowing you to manage virtual appointments, educational resources, referrals, case presentations, prescriptions, patient forms and much more.
  • Toothpic’s easy-to-use, asynchronous system offers high-resolution imagery for patient assessments at your convenience, in five to ten minutes. Connect, triage and follow up with patients.

These offers are good through September 30, 2020, though the products will still be available after.

As a reminder, Delta Dental accepts teledentistry claims for covered services.

These provided links to other sites and other companies, including links to third party companies offering teledentistry products and services, or any other links, documents, changes or updates within these linked sites are provided only as a convenience and are not under Delta Dental’s control. Such external links are not investigated, monitored, or checked for accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness by Delta Dental. These links have been listed in no particular order of preference but simply in company name alphabetical order. Delta Dental does not warrant, endorse, guarantee, or assume responsibility for the accuracy or reliability of any information offered by these third-party companies offering teledentistry products and services, including on their websites linked in this email. Delta Dental has received no compensation for including these links and information in this email, and Delta Dental will not be a party to or in any way be responsible for any transaction between you and these third-party companies offering teledentistry products and services.

For more information, please visit our Legal Notices page.

Student Leadership Award winners announced

Twenty-nine exceptional dental school students were recently recognized, each with a $10,000 award, by the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation.

Deans and faculty at dental schools throughout our enterprise region handpicked the award winners for their strong leadership skills, dedication to serving others and passion for the field of dentistry.

The students were presented with their award at their dental school’s commencement or awards ceremony. Check out the Foundation on Facebook and visit us on Instagram (@ddccfoundation) for photos of the winners.

The 2018 Delta Dental Community Care Foundation Student Leadership Award winners:

Joseph M. Youssef, University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry

Giana Maria Lupinetti, University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine

Kathryn Champion, Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine

Mechay Rush Gray, University of Alabama School of Dentistry

Rakeb Tilahun, Howard University College of Dentistry

Ashley Boettger, University of Utah School of Dentistry

Samuel Lovejoy, Roseman University College of Dental Medicine

Pete Angelo Petrides, West Virginia University School of Dentistry

Tanya Sue Maestas, University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston

Amanda Mitchell, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry

Lauren Brubaker, Texas A&M University College of Dentistry

Jay H. Patel, Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry

Lam Bui, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine

Stephen C. Rogers, University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine

Taylor Cohen, University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine

Rachel Vorwaller, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine

Sana Nasir, New York University College of Dentistry

Tyler Samuel Wheeler, University of Mississippi School of Dentistry

Jessica Grenfell, Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine

Margaret M. Saludis, University of Maryland School of Dentistry

Edward Dark Starr, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry

Dahlia Levine, Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University

Austin Belknap, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, School of Dental Medicine

Alejandro Quesada, University of Florida College of Dentistry

Diana Heineken, Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine

Melissa Toni Lin, University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry

Jin Ki Kang, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of the University of Southern California

Albert Scott Young, University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry

Kyle Leis, Loma Linda University School of Dentistry

Learn more about the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation at

Something to smile about

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation received the following letter from the Family Healthcare of Hagerstown, a health and dental care clinic for low-income residents of Washington County, Maryland. The Foundation has awarded grants to Family Healthcare of Hagerstown since 2012.

The letter emphasizes in a quiet way how much good can be done with a strong dentist-patient-Delta Dental connection. The patient’s name was changed for privacy purposes.

Dear Delta Dental Community Care Foundation,

We want to share with you the story of one of our patients who was helped by your generous funds. Charles is a man in his thirties who was scheduled for a kidney transplant in November of 2016.

Charles lives below the poverty level, has a wife and two children and shares apartment space with his wife’s mother. His chance for a new kidney was complicated by dental decay and poor oral health.

Due to the risk of infection, Charles’ surgeon would not perform the transplant surgery until Charles had successfully addressed his dental issues. Charles’ wife is a Family Healthcare patient, so she called and explained the situation.

We immediately scheduled Charles for an exam and consultation. After three dental appointments and within two weeks of surgery, Charles had nine fillings and seven tooth extractions.

The kidney transplant surgery was performed as planned, and Charles is doing very well now. It’s not an overstatement to say that grant funds from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation helped to save Charles’ life. Thank you.

Family Healthcare of Hagerstown

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