FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Category: Patients (Page 1 of 6)

Browse tips and resources to help you support your patients.

Tips for caring for your blind and low-vision patients

October is Blindness Awareness Month and it’s the perfect time to reevaluate some of your accessibility practices. Approximately 12 million Americans over 40 are visually impaired, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 1 million are blind and 2 million have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of low-vision and blindness among adults over 50. Additionally, studies have linked periodontal disease to retinal degeneration and certain oral bacteria to glaucoma

Not all visual impairments are obvious, so it’s important to offer options to your patients.

What you can do for your patients

Accessibility doesn’t necessarily mean big digital and office modifications. Being mindful of blind and low-vision patients and their needs can create a better dental experience for everyone involved. A little bit of awareness goes a long way in creating a safer and more dignified dental visit for your patient.

  • Need to remind a patient of an upcoming appointment? Text messages or email are often preferred methods. Paper reminders via mail are often not accessible for blind and low-vision patients.
  • During appointments, don’t assume that your patient is able to visually take in everything, such as X-rays. Verbally state any important information such as your name, what procedure you’re performing and anything else that should be known. Additionally, if you have to leave the room, let the patient know.
  • Tempting as it may be, guide dogs have an important job to do. If a patient arrives with a guide dog, understand that by petting it or offering treats, you may be interfering with it helping its owner. Always ask before approaching.
  • Even the simplest webpages can have coding that’s difficult for magnification and screen reader users. Make your website easier to use for blind and low-vision patients by using alt-text for images, being thoughtful with colors and choosing descriptive phrases for linking.
  • If you need to prescribe any medication to your patients, talk to them about how often they should take it and anything else they should know. Often times, side effects and other crucial information can be printed quite small.

Resources from Delta Dental

When your patients need a little extra help with their benefits, Delta Dental is here to help.

All patients deserve equal care and dignity when receiving it. For more tips and resources, visit the American Foundation for the Blind.

Oral health resources for Spanish-speaking patients

As a dentist, you already know that language should never be a barrier to receiving proper care. One in seven people in the U.S. speaks Spanish at home, yet Hispanic adults with limited proficiency in English receive about one-third less health care than those proficient in English.

In taking steps to bridge this gap, Delta Dental offers a variety of language assistance options for both you and your Spanish-speaking patients.

Resources for the dental office

  • An English-to-Spanish phrase guide is easy to download and print. Keep this handy guide at your workstation for quick reminder on common questions and phrases that may arise during a dental appointment. The guide even includes pronunciation tips to help you communicate as efficiently as possible.
  • The Delta Dental online dentist directory includes languages spoken in the office. Keeping your office’s listing accurate and up to date helps Spanish-speaking members find the right dentist to fit their needs.
  • Interpretation services are also available for in-person dental appointments when a Spanish-speaking staff member isn’t an option. Letting your staff know about this service is a great way to proactively assist patients with limited English. To request this service, members should contact Customer Service at least 72 hours in advance of an appointment.

Resources for your patients

  • Our website, and all its offerings, can be found in Spanish. This includes plan information, wellness articles and even Grin! magazine and is a perfect introduction to Delta Dental for new patients.
  • Customer Service is available in Spanish when patients have questions about their insurance that you’re unable to answer. To talk to a representative, members can call 866-530-9675 and dial 8 when prompted. Answers to our most frequently asked questions are also available on our website.

Learn more about Delta Dental’s language assistance resources for dentists and how they can benefit your patients.

How COVID-19 brought challenges and solutions to dentistry for seniors

Times of crisis call for creative solutions, and that’s never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovative dentists have sought to adapt many aspects of their practices, but especially those involving the most vulnerable segment of our population: older adults.

New challenges for seniors’ oral health

For many seniors, even before the advent of COVID-19, physical limitations, systemic disease, cognitive decline and dependence on caregivers could all lead to an overall decline in oral health. What’s more, the pandemic worsened many of these same problems while presenting new ones.

“COVID-19 laid bare weaknesses in our elder care system,” said moderator Stephen K. Shuman, DDS, MS, in a webinar on pandemic-related disruptions in oral health care hosted by the Gerontological Society of America.

Some of the challenges in oral health care for seniors during the pandemic have included:

  • Reduced access. Early in the pandemic, many dentists’ offices shuttered, and even when they reopened, fear of COVID-19 led many older adults to delay or entirely forego visits to the dentist’s office. Nearly half of U.S. adults reported delaying dental care due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the spring of 2020, and the increased risk posed by COVID-19 to seniors likely exacerbated the problem among older adults.
  • Reduced care. In long-term care facilities, daily brushing, flossing and other routine care tasks were sometimes put on the back burner as COVID-19 diverted staff members to provide more urgent care to those affected or at risk. Proper oral care could also be challenged by staff members’ fears about the potential for oral transmission of COVID-19. Staffing shortages in facilities and on oral care teams made the situation worse. Georgia and Minnesota reported staffing shortages in long-term care facilities of more than 25% during the pandemic, and a recent poll from the ADA Health Policy Institute found that more than 80% of owner dentists who are currently hiring consider recruitment of dental hygienists and assistants to be extremely or very challenging at this time.
  • Psychosocial problems. The loneliness, anxiety and depression caused by shelter-at-home orders could themselves worsen oral health among older Americans.

Solutions in oral health care for seniors during the pandemic

Just as the COVID-19 presented new problems, it also created potential for positive long-term change.

Teledentistry and teletriage

Through necessity, many dentists began refining techniques for the use of teledentistry and teletriage.

Some companies began implementing or built up their existing “pandemic teledentistry.” Teams used cloud-based electronic health records and taught long-term care facility staff how to take useful images of patient mouths and send them to centrally located dentists.

At the height of the pandemic, 24.8% of responding dentists reported they were conducting remote problem-focused evaluations through virtual technology or telecommunications, according to polling from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute.

Some innovative dentists used what they referred to as assisted, or guided, oral hygiene during the pandemic. They used the latest audio and video technology to guide a patient or caregiver as they carried out oral hygiene on a regularly scheduled basis. Some caregivers, such as Michael J. Helgeson, DDS, of Apple Tree Dental, saw the technology as a key way to maintain dental health care for seniors during the pandemic when in-person care wasn’t possible.

Mobile dentistry

While the pandemic restricted mobile care in some cases, its primary advantage of reducing the need to transport at-risk seniors also caused it to emerge as another possible solution.

Many dentists were already accustomed to setting up mobile units in long term care facilities even before the pandemic. Mobile dentistry helps reduce the potential for stress and confusion caused by moving older patients or those with dementia. With the latest mobile equipment deployed to long-term care facilities, dentists are able to perform simple extractions, restorative work and more in a timely manner. As in many dental offices, mobile units often add an external dental suction that uses ultraviolet light and filters to remove pathogens from the air.

How to support your senior patients through the pandemic

COVID-19 presented extraordinary challenges to your senior patients. The new solutions that helped maintain health care for older adults during the pandemic are likely here to stay.

To support your senior patients throughout the pandemic:

  • Communicate with patients. Oral health care should never be placed on the back burner, and maintaining good communication with your patients is one of the most crucial keys to emphasizing the importance of oral health. As always, keep in mind the systemic relationship between oral health and overall well-being. Use empathic listening and compassionate care to encourage the maintenance of oral hygiene routines among your senior patients throughout the pandemic.
  • Consider adopting new approaches. Teledentistry can now connect oral health care providers with older adults remotely when patients are unable to visit a dental clinic or if there are restrictions on dental providers visiting residential facilities. The use of mobile dentistry during the pandemic likewise bodes well for its future implementation as a solution for the needs of seniors in long term care facilities for whom transport is an issue.

7 dangerous dental trends from TikTok

When it comes to bad dental advice on TikTok, the hits just keep on coming. After a much-publicized series of viral videos about do-it-yourself teeth filing, several new and equally horrifying dental trends have emerged on the social media platform.

While you might have hoped TikTokers would have learned their lesson after the tooth-filing debacle, apparently that was just the warm-up. Here are some of the newest and most widely viewed harmful dental trends on the social media platform right now.

Using household cleaning products to whiten teeth

Scrubbing teeth with an abrasive pad that contains sulfurous acid and formaldehyde might seem like an obviously bad idea, but at least one TikTok user disagrees.

In a (since deleted) video viewed more than 2.5 million times, TikTok user @theheatherdunn revealed that for the past two years, she’s used pieces of a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which the manufacturer advertises as having the “muscle to take on tough messes all around the house,” to whiten her teeth.

In the video, in which she also advised against using fluoride on teeth, Dunn said, “Yes, I am prepared for all the dentists that are going to come on here and be like, ‘Don’t do it — she’s crazy!’ I don’t care.”

Maybe you should, Heather?

Do-it-yourself orthodontics

In a video viewed 9.5 million times, a young woman wrapped her front teeth with several elastic hair ties, claiming she was going to close a gap between her front teeth in three days. She also posted a follow-up video showing off her alleged results. And just to drive the point home, she created a video mocking dentists who responded to her DIY braces videos in horror.

The dentists’ reaction was warranted. The practice shown in the video can restrict blood flow to teeth, potentially changing their color or even leading to tooth loss. The elastic bands can also lead to gum inflammation or infection.

While the TikTok videos are new, this trend has been around for quite a while, as DIY braces also became a viral phenomenon on YouTube in 2015.

Making prosthetic teeth and partial dentures with art supplies

Another cringeworthy trend involves using InstaMorph beads, made from a polyester thermoplastic that can be heated and molded into various shapes, to repair or replace teeth.

TikTok user love86emily posted a video, which has almost 47,000 likes, showing how to mold a handful of the tiny choking hazards into a “tooth.” Another user’s video showing how to repair a chipped tooth with the beads, which aren’t certified food-safe by the FDA, has received 1.7 million views.

Creating “shark teeth” for crowns

One of the most destructive TikTok trends involves people filing their teeth into narrow pegs so that they can be fitted with crowns, or in some cases, what the subjects mistakenly believe are veneers. While dentists have pointed out in replies that veneers often require little or no prep, let alone grinding your teeth into nubs, these videos continue to appear frequently on the platform.

Gluing vampire fangs to teeth

For some, Halloween means going trick or treating, dressing up in costumes, and gluing fangs to their teeth with a cyanoacrylate adhesive, otherwise known as super glue or nail adhesive. Although it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a toxic permanent adhesive is both toxic and permanent, that hasn’t deterred the many TikTok users who have used the glue to get the perfect vampire grin.

But wait, there’s more!

Users have also recently posted videos in which they apply 3% hydrogen peroxide solution directly to their teeth to whiten them. Others have promoted flossing with human hair.

The general mindset of these DIY dental fans seems to be best summed up by user claudes244: “If you’re a dentist, don’t tell me this is wrong — spare me the grief. The damage has already been done.”

How can I protect my patients?

While TikTok may be full of terrible dental tips, it’s also a platform you can use to educate and reach new patients. Many dentists and dental professionals have posted TikTok videos of their own warning against dangerous dental practices and promoting safer alternatives.

Other ideas to consider:

  • Email or text your patients, particularly the parents of teens, to alert them to these trends and warn them of the dangers.
  • Post information on your practice’s social media about the danger of these fads and alternatives.
  • Talk to your teen patients about safe ways to fix imperfect smiles, such as cleanings, orthodontics, cosmetic procedures and professional teeth whitening.
  • At the same time, be cautious about increasing awareness of these trends and consider with whom you share this information.

And finally, while some of your patients might think these DIY trends seem like a good way to save money in the short term, remind them that long-term, potentially irreparable damage to their teeth is never worth it.

Is your directory listing up to date?

When was the last time you checked your Find a Dentist directory listing? If you’ve changed office hours or added a staff member who speaks a different language, then it’s time to update your listing.

Millions of patients rely on the Delta Dental directory to locate nearby dentists who fit their needs. Make sure that you’re broadcasting the right information. Updating your listing only take a few minutes and is an excellent way of attracting new patients.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Log in to Provider Tools and select My account.
  2. Click on Directory profile.
  3. Go to Actions and click Open.
  4. Update information, as needed.
  5. Save as draft if you’re not yet ready to publish your updates or select Publish if you’re ready to go live.

Remember, your listing can and should be revised anytime changes are made to your business. We recommend setting up a yearly reminder to check your listing for accuracy. While you’re at it, be sure to verify your other heavily searched online listings such as YelpFacebookGoogle and Apple.

Help new patients find your practice

A lot has changed over the past year. If your practice made any updates, let Delta Dental members know. From updates to office hours to new languages spoken by staff, these changes can be quite valuable to members searching for a dentist. If you can’t remember the last time you checked on your listing, consider this your reminder.

Millions of members rely on the Find a Dentist directory. Keeping your profile up to date is an easy way to attract new patients and it only takes a few minutes.

How to update your directory listing:

  1. Log into Provider Tools and select My account.
  2. Click on Directory profile.
  3. Go to Actions and click Open.
  4. Update information, as needed.
  5. Save as draft or select Publish.

Once you’ve gone through the steps, we recommend setting a yearly reminder to check your listing for accuracy. You might also want to update your information on heavily searched sites such as Yelp, Facebook, Google and Apple, while you’re at it.

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