Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Category: Resources (Page 1 of 3)

Explore the tools and materials Delta Dental offers network dentists and staff.

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.

Upcoming webinar on everything orthodontics

Have you ever been confused by orthodontic coverage, case takeover or claim submissions?

Representatives from the Delta Dental claims department will answer your questions in a special webinar dedicated to demystifying orthodontics, held August 12 at 2 pm Eastern time. You’ll learn:

  • The basics of orthodontic coverage
  • Delta Dental policies around case takeover
  • What Delta Dental pays for orthodontic services
  • Answers to common questions about claims

Become an ortho master. Register today. (Please note: The information on the registration page incorrectly states that this webinar covers Provider Tools.)

Are you on your patient’s wavelength?

Each patient visit is an opportunity to build trust in your care. Being culturally aware enables you to communicate clearly and understandably with patients, no matter their ethnic or cultural backgrounds. One-to-one communication with patients at their levels shows respect and can increase cooperation in their treatment.

Why is this more important now? Your current (and potential) patients’ cultural backgrounds and ethnicities reflect America’s growing diversity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 2019 estimates, this is the makeup of the U.S. population:

  • White (not Hispanic or Latino): 60.1%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 18.5%
  • Black or African American 13.4%
  • Asian: 5.9%
  • American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander: 1.5%

Since the 2010 U.S. Census, the non-white population percentage has increased from 36.2 to 39.9. Being aware of cultural differences, especially language, will put you and your patients on the same wavelength for achieving quality care. And you can develop valuable skills to do this.

Cultural competency consists of five components:

  1. Cultural awareness. Take time to understand patients’ beliefs, values and practices.
  2. Cultural knowledge. Learn world views of diverse patient groups.
  3. Cultural skill. Collect relevant cultural data about the patients’ health problems and conduct interviews and evaluations to determine treatments based on needs.
  4. Cultural encounters. Participate in multicultural activities to learn about diverse groups.
  5. Cultural desire. Deliver care for all patients equally, regardless of cultural values and beliefs.

To raise your practice’s competency level, you can take steps to more effectively communicate with patients of diverse backgrounds and their friends and relatives.

3 steps for closing the language gap

Ask your patients (or their friends or family members) what their preferred language is and what makes them comfortable and note it in the chart. Communicating with a patient in his or her native language is key.  Not only does this put patients more at ease, but it also makes it easier to track their concerns about care.

Besides English, the top languages spoken at home in the U.S. are (ranked in order by most speakers):  Spanish, Chinese, French or French-based creoles, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, German, Arabic, Russian and Italian.

But what if you don’t speak your patients’ native languages? You can take three steps to boost your practice’s language capabilities:

  1. Take advantage of Delta Dental’s Language Assistance Program. Customer Service phone assistance is available in over 170 languages for enrollees.
  2. Advise patients with limited English proficiency that they can call the LAP to arrange for a qualified interpreter to help at no cost. For onsite interpretation services, call at least 72 hours in advanced of the appointment time.
  3. Keep on hand printed materials translated in the languages most relevant to your practice so they’re available to patients. This may include forms, pre- and post-operative instructions, health and wellness materials, emergency phone numbers and anything else that may help.

How to boost your practice’s cultural awareness

Learning more about cultural differences and achieving competency are two ways to ensure that your practice thrives in a changing cultural landscape.  You can do this by gaining skills:

  • Attend classes and continuing education courses, onsite or online, that address social customs among different cultures in your community.
  • Go to multicultural events to learn about the interests, lifestyles and values of people with diverse backgrounds and form relationships.
  • Learn a few key phrases in native languages, such as “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” “open wide,” “where does it hurt?” and “do you have any questions?”
  • If you have bilingual or multilingual staff members, encourage them to help co-workers communicate with patients.

Achieving cultural competency can help your practice welcome more patients. You can update your Delta Dental directory listing if you have fluency in non-English languages. Let patients know you are on their wavelength

Delta Dental language resources for your practice

  • Our website in English and in Spanish
  • Automated telephone service for eligibility, benefits and more in Spanish
  • Downloadable English to Spanish phrase guide (PDF)
  • Dentist Handbook: Log in and select Reference Library; you can find LAP resource information and English, Chinese and Spanish versions of enrollee grievance forms.

DentaQual ratings update

This spring, DentaQual ratings were added to dentist directory listings. The program introduction was positively received and we are sharing a national announcement to broaden the understanding of the system as it is rolled out to more listings. In preparation for these changes, you can learn more about how DentaQual works, how it can help your practice and how ratings are developed.

Prescribing in an epidemic: alternatives to dental opioids

In 2019, 49,860 people in the United States died from an overdose involving opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than 14,000 of those deaths were the direct result of prescriptions for the substance. In fact, the American Journal for Preventative Medicine reports that dentists are responsible for one in 10 of all U.S. opioid prescriptions. Opioid misuse is an epidemic in America. While the substance can be helpful in easing pain due to surgery, injury or illness, its highly addictive nature puts users at risk for addiction, overdose and death.

Luckily, prescriptions opioids such as hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl are not the only option to prescribe to your patients dealing with dental pain. Let’s take a look at the risks and, more importantly, the solutions.

The slippery slopes of addiction and recovery

The reward centers of our brains can’t help but love opioids at first: The drug triggers endorphins, diluting feelings of pain and boosting euphoria. Though this effect can be particularly useful in a medical setting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 136 in the United States die every day from opioid overdoses.

Prescription opioids become more addictive when taken in ways other than prescribed, such as snorting or injection. The road to recovery from opioid abuse is not an easy one. Painful withdrawal symptoms can kick in within hours of an addict’s last dose. Prescribing opioids to a patient in recovery who may not have disclosed their current or past drug abuse is a risk that every medical professional should take into consideration.

Anyone who is taking opioids is at risk of developing addiction, according to the Mayo Clinic. Of course, there are other influences at work that can put a person at higher risk for addiction. These environmental, emotional and genetic factors can all contribute:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Age
  • Family and personal history of drug abuse
  • Mental health

What to prescribe instead of opioids

As a professional who know how effective prescription opioids can be, it may feel counterintuitive for you to cut a useful resource from your practice. However, as the opioid epidemic soldiers on for yet another decade, the risk versus reward must be taken into account.

For minor aches and pains, The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) recommends basic over-the-counter ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin and steroids. Studies show that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be more effective at reducing pain than opioids and The American Dental Association (ADA) offers a helpful chart on prescribing NSAIDs as an alternative to opioids.

  • For mild pain from procedures such as gingivectomies, simple extractions or subgingival restorative work, the ADA recommends 200 to 400 mg of ibuprofen every four to six hours, as needed.
  • For moderate to severe pain from procedures such as implant surgery or surgical extraction, the ADA recommends 400 to 600 mg plus 500 mg of acetaminophen every six hours for 24 hours.
  • When it comes to chronic pain, some anti-seizure medications work on the same neurotransmitters as pain, according to the University of Southern California (USC). USC also recommends muscle relaxants and local anesthetics as alternatives to opioids.

What you can do now

Despite the three decades that Americans have spent in an opioid crisis, there is much work still to be done. One of the easiest first steps that you can take is simply limiting prescriptions to opioids and taking the time to research safer recommendations for your patients. For more resources on addiction, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.

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