FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Category: Patients (Page 1 of 9)

Browse tips and resources to help you support your patients.

Get to know Medicare Advantage

Every day for the next decade, about 10,000 Americans will turn 65. It’s estimated that by 2030, approximately 18% of the nation’s population will be 65 or older.

This means that every single day, more and more people become eligible for insurance coverage through Medicare and can purchase supplemental Medicare Advantage dental plans through approved vendors like Delta Dental. If you want your practice to serve this growing population of patients, joining Delta Dental’s Medicare Advantage network is the perfect place to start.

Why should you join Delta Dental’s Medicare Advantage network?

Joining Delta Dental’s Medicare Advantage network can provide a substantial boost to both attracting and keeping patients:

  • Enrollment in Medicare Advantage has more than doubled over the past decade, and enrollment continues to increase by as much as 9% a year.
  • Most Medicare Advantage groups offer a closed-panel benefit package. This means patients covered under these plans must see a dentist contracted in the Medicare Advantage network.
  • When you join our network, you’ll appear in our online Medicare Advantage directory, which can help new patients find you.
  • Being part of Delta Dental’s Medicare Advantage network can help you keep your existing patients as they reach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

What if you’ve already opted out of participation in Medicare?

You can still join our Medicare Advantage network.

Rules that prohibit payment to providers who have opted out of participation in Medicare don’t apply to supplemental benefits like dental, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The policy became effective on January 1, 2022. Even if you’ve opted out of Medicare through CMS, you can still join the Delta Dental Medicare network and provide services to our Medicare Advantage members.

What about non-covered services?

If you’re contracted with Medicare Advantage networks, you can charge Medicare Advantage patients for any non-covered service. Members must simply give informed consent so they are aware of any out-of-pocket costs.

How do you join Delta Dental’s Medicare Advantage networks?

If you’re interested in joining, all you need to do is send us an email.

Email ProviderConcierge@delta.org for the DHMO Medicare Advantage network and medadv@delta.org for the PPO Medicare Advantage network. We’ll email you an application.

Watch out for allergies in the dental office

In 2019, an 11-year-old girl died after using a toothpaste prescribed by her dentist. The toothpaste contained milk proteins and the girl, who was acutely allergic to dairy, had a severe anaphylactic reaction. Tragically, despite being treated immediately with an injection of epinephrine and receiving CPR, she couldn’t be revived.

This is a chilling reminder that being aware of both your patients’ allergies and what might trigger them is crucial when providing care. While you’re probably aware of your patients’ allergies to medications and anesthesia, being aware of uncommon allergies to common dental products is equally important.

Here are a few tips to help ensure you’re prepared.

Make sure your patients disclose all their allergies — do some digging

When providing you with their medical history, patients may disclose only the allergies they assume are relevant. Be sure to explain to patients that you need to be aware of all their allergies, even those that are seemingly unrelated to their treatment, such as allergies to foods or dyes. It’s also a good idea to ask how severe those allergies are and what their typical reaction is.

Know what’s in the products you use

Be diligent about knowing what the products you use contain and which ingredients may be allergy risks, and have alternatives available for patients with sensitivities. Here are some possible allergens to be aware of.

Latex

Latex is frequently found in dental products other than gloves, including a few that might not be immediately obvious, such as:

  • Dental dams
  • Interdental picks
  • Mouth props
  • Prophy cups
  • The nose bridge of patient safety glasses

Gluten

While gluten is commonly associated with breads and grains, it can pop up in a surprising number of dental products, including:

  • Fluoride products
  • Oral prostheses and appliances made with methyl methacrylate or MMA, such as dentures, retainers and temporary crowns
  • Prophy pastes
  • Sample products for patients
  • Therapeutic agents
  • Whitening systems

Dairy

As noted earlier, certain dental products contain dairy, most commonly toothpastes and sugar-free gums that contain an ingredient called Recaldent, which is made from a milk protein.

Food additives

Additives used to enhance the taste or appearance of certain oral hygiene products may cause allergic reactions. Triclosan, sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium lauryl sarcosinate in toothpaste, and cinnamic aldehyde, proflavine, benzydamine, chlorhexidine and alcohol in mouthwashes have been shown to cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to these substances.

Metals

Metals found in fillings, dentures, implants and orthodontic appliances have caused reactions in patients sensitive to them. Possible culprits are nickel alloys, mercury and titanium. For fillings, consider composite resin, glass ionomer or porcelain materials as options. 


Tragic outcomes are rare, but the risk is always present. But with due diligence and a few questions, you can minimize the risk of allergic reactions and ensure that you provide your patients with the safest care possible.

Too few kids are getting fluoride treatments: What you can do

Dental fluoride treatments are among the most effective and efficient techniques for hindering tooth decay in children. But despite their proven effectiveness, and despite the fact that such treatments are often covered by insurance, too few children are getting them.

Very few privately insured young children receive recommended dental fluoride treatments at health wellness visits, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open. The study’s analysis of more than 328,000 well-child visits for privately insured 2- to 5-year-olds found that fluoride treatment was done in fewer than 5% of visits between 2016 and 2018.

Parental refusal and clinical intervention strategies

One common reason that children aren’t getting fluoride treatments is parental refusal. In a survey, nearly 80% of dentists said they believed fluoride refusal was a problem. In one study, refusal of fluoride was found to be correlated with refusal of vaccines, and as many as 51.5% of parents refused topical fluoride treatments.

“Tooth decay is the number one disease of early childhood, and fluoride plays a critical role in strengthening the enamel and preventing cavities,” said Dr. Jessica Buehler, Director of Dental Affairs at Delta Dental. “Unfortunately, in today’s world of information overload and patients getting their news through social media, there are many families that oppose or do not understand the value and importance of fluoride.” 

Reasons for parental refusal

Parental attitudes and beliefs about health are important determinants of fluoride refusal. Most common is the belief that fluoride is unsafe. Such concerns are often spread and amplified through social networks, the media and the internet. Other factors may include religious beliefs, a desire for autonomy and concerns about the true intent of fluoride treatments.

Clinical interventions

The following clinical strategies can help you improve communication with parents about topical fluoride treatments:

  • Assess parents’ knowledge, beliefs and attitudes early. Screen for possible fluoride hesitancy at the start of preventive visits by asking open-ended, non-judgmental questions, such as “Do you have any questions for me about fluoride?” This can help you assess beliefs and start a conversation.
  • Ensure your team is prepared. Make sure your staff of dental assistants and hygienists understands how fluoride works and why it’s important, as they will likely be the ones applying fluoride treatments. Acknowledge that parental refusal can be a problem and assure your staff that you are there to support them. “Auxiliary staff should not engage in an argument when a parent refuses fluoride,” suggested Dr. Buehler. “They should inform the dentist so that she or he can answer any questions the family may have.”
  • Obtain information about why parents are refusing fluoride. Avoid a pro-fluoride “sales pitch.” Instead, ask questions about what’s motivating a parent’s decision to opt out. Listening is key and can help build trust. Reassure the parent that you respect their health care decisions. Some parents may reconsider their decision after several discussions over time. Document conversations with parents so that future discussions can be framed appropriately.
  • Incorporate specific caries risk factors into discussions. Provide parents with an explanation of why fluoride is important based on the unique risk factors associated with each child. For instance, white spot lesions on the child’s teeth should be pointed out to the parent, with a description on how fluoride helps to prevent white spots from turning into cavities that require fillings.
  • Discuss alternative fluoride sources and behavioral strategies. Parents who refuse fluoride during dental and medical visits may be open to use of at-home fluoride products. Discuss alternative sources of fluoride that could be used at home, like fluoridated toothpastes and fluoride mouthwashes. Remind parents about the benefits and safety of fluoride in water. For parents who refuse all fluoride-containing products and water, emphasize that reducing dietary sugars and acids becomes even more critical in managing caries risk.

Fluoride treatments, your pediatric patients and you

Fluoride varnish is recommended by the U.S. Preventive Task Force and the American Academy of Pediatrics for all infants and children starting at tooth eruption through age five years. All children in this age category should receive fluoride varnish application at least once every six months, according to the recommendation. Most private insurers cover the procedure, and coverage with no cost-share for families is mandatory under the Affordable Care Act.

Most Delta Dental PPO™ and DeltaCare® USA plans cover fluoride treatments for children up to age 12, and many cover such treatments up to age 18, and for adults, as well. The specific codes for fluoride treatments are:

  • D1206 Topical application of fluoride varnish
  • D1208 Topical application of fluoride excluding varnish

Preventive dental care is important at any age, and we encourage you to give regular fluoride treatments to your pediatric patients. Developing a clinical workflow that includes fluoride application can greatly improve the oral health of children within your practice.

Explore the benefits of teledentistry

You probably already know that interest in teledentistry has risen greatly over the past few years, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that people are returning to their normal lives, there’s no reason to discontinue virtual exams. Televisits are here to stay and can be convenient for both patients and dentists.

Advantages of virtual dentistry for dentists

When you implement teledentistry in your practice, you can see your patient base and revenues increase. You’ll also enjoy:

  • Efficiency. You can reserve televisits for more minor issues and checkups while seeing patients with more serious concerns in the office. And since virtual dentistry appointments average about 10 minutes, you can see more patients than you can in-office visits.
  • More revenue. Fitting in more appointments means more revenue coming in. Also, patients who set up a televisit with you are more likely to see you for in-person procedures as well, which can mean more business. It’s also easier to schedule patients for second opinions, which can be a new revenue stream.
  • Safety. Dentists and hygienists are exposed to many infectious diseases every day. With televisits, there’s no infection risk.
  • Reduced costs. The more patients you see remotely, the less personal protective equipment (PPE) you’ll need to use, which means a reduction in supply costs.

Advantages of virtual dentistry for patients

Patients benefit from the convenience of seeing you straight from their location, which means minimal time away from work. They’ll also be less anxious, and it increases access to many disadvantaged groups who may not have previously sought dental care, including homebound patients and people with disabilities.

Delta Dental’s internal data shows there are still patients who aren’t fully utilizing their teledentistry benefits, so this is an untapped market. The service is available to 37 million Delta Dental enrollees as a covered benefit.  A 2021 McKinsey & Company study showed that around 40% of surveyed consumers said they would continue using telehealth going forward. This is up from 11% before the pandemic.

How to get started with teledentistry

Delta Dental’s Virtual Consult allows patients to schedule live (synchronous) virtual video visits with a dentist. You’ll be able to assess their issue, offer treatment (including medication) and schedule follow-up visits.

Delta Dental will provide you with a free software platform to conduct these teledentistry sessions.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Virtual Consult program, just fill out the online form and we’ll contact you about getting started.

How to become a more culturally competent dental practice

It can be easy to think that most people you interact with have a similar background to your own. But when it comes to practicing dentistry, making these sorts of assumptions and judgements can actually restrict your ability to successfully treat your current patients or even to grow your patient base.

So how do you address and change these beliefs and habits? That’s where cultural competency comes in.

What is cultural competency?

Cultural competency is your ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures and belief systems that differ from your own. Cultural competence is a lifelong process of becoming more aware and seeing past your deeply engrained viewpoint.

Cultural competency consists of five components:

  • Cultural awareness. Taking time to understand your patients’ beliefs, values and practices.
  • Cultural knowledge. Learning about the world views of diverse patient groups.
  • Cultural skill. Collecting relevant cultural data about your patients’ health problems and conducting interviews and evaluations to determine treatments based on needs.
  • Cultural encounters. Participating in multicultural activities to learn about diverse groups directly.
  • Cultural desire. Delivering care for all patients equally, regardless of cultural values and beliefs.

The goal isn’t to change your beliefs or values. Instead, you’re learning to shift your perspective so you can better work with and help people who may be different than you. By understanding your patients’ viewpoints and meeting them where they’re at, you can provide more effective treatment and support that will fit their unique needs and means.

How to become more culturally competent

The first step to becoming more culturally competent is evaluating where your practice currently stands.  For example, consider how patients who primarily speak a non-English language would navigate your office to schedule and come in for a typical visit. Would they be able to easily communicate with your staff and fill out forms? Would your important in-office signage be understandable? How would you discuss procedures with them?

Do your best to identify areas of improvement and start working towards addressing them. Try to think about how people of different religions, ethnicities, races and customs would experience your office. It’s likely that you won’t see everything, but even small changes can be a massive help to patients. Make sure that you create a warm, welcoming environment so that every patient feels comfortable asking questions and participating in their care so you can better serve them.

One great way to address issues is by giving patients an easy way to submit feedback and encouraging them to do so. Here are some ideas on how to get started:

  • Create a place for feedback. Set up an email address or an online form where patients can provide direct feedback. You should also consider creating a place where everyone who works in your practice can add their thoughts or ideas that patients mention off-hand.
  • Tell your patients how to submit feedback. You could include a small card in any goodie bags with a URL, email address or even a QR code that points to the form. To get the most helpful feedback, include instructions in commonly spoken languages and give examples of the kind of ideas you’re looking for.
  • Analyze the results. When you start receiving responses, pay attention to trends and suggestions that pop up frequently. If multiple people are having issues with the forms in your practice, it may be time to update them!

An important part of cultural competence is taking action, with the goal of improving your service and creating better outcomes for your patients.

Resources from Delta Dental

Delta Dental offers a variety of resources to help you create a culturally inclusive practice.


As a more culturally competent practice, you’ll be in a much better position to care for your patients and grow your practice.

How to serve non-English speaking patients

The U.S. is more of a melting pot than ever, with about 350 languages currently being spoken, according to the latest census statistics. That means more people may be coming into your practice who may have difficulty communicating with you.

What can you do to help patients with limited English proficiency? You can receive free language assistance for Delta Dental members through our Language Assistance Program (LAP). LAP gives you access to interpretation and translation assistance that meets state and federal requirements for language assistance services.

Request interpretive services

You can get interpretive services in 170 different languages through LAP. This service is available to Delta Dental members at no charge and allows you to talk to patients through an interpreter so you can understand their needs clearly and give them the best care possible. For phone interpretation, just call 866-530-9675 to get an interpreter the next time you need one.

If you prefer to talk with a patient face to face, an interpreter can also meet you in your office and translate any conversations you have. Live interpretation services require 72 hours’ notice.

Get member materials

Members can access information about our plans and benefits in different languages, too. The Delta Dental website is available in Spanish, and members can learn about the different plans and benefits as well as read articles on dental health and wellness.

Plan materials can be translated into other languages and made into accessible formats such as Braille and audio files upon request.

Spread the word

If you or someone in your practice speaks another language, it’s worth advertising this fact. Make sure your dentist directory listing includes the languages spoken at your practice. This can help patients who speak your language find you easily.

Create a welcoming environment

You can do even more to welcome patients who don’t speak English. Create a protocol for your staff to follow when talking to patients with limited English proficiency, and make a conscious effort to be aware of and respect cultural differences.

If you have a large number of patients who speak a specific language, make sure your policies, brochures and forms are available in that language.

Patients with limited English proficiency may feel uncomfortable at first, but if you create a warm, welcoming environment and help them overcome the language barriers, you’ll serve them better and grow your practice at the same time.

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