FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Tag: California (Page 1 of 3)

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Lyudmila Kravchuk

Driven to become a dentist since she was in high school, Lyudmila Kravchuk, DDS, hasn’t let any obstacles stop her from achieving her goal. Originally from Ukraine, Dr. Kravchuk trained in Latvia and now runs a practice in Citrus Heights, California.

Her passion for transforming patients’ lives through dental health motivates her work as a dentist and keeps her patients returning to her practice year after year.

Our Dental Health Partner of the Month for August, Dr. Kravchuk has also been recognized for her dental work in the local community by Russian Time Magazine and the Slavic Community Center of Sacramento.

We caught up with Dr. Kravchuk after a busy week to discuss her story and why she still loves dentistry after four decades.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Dr. Lyudmila Kravchuk, I own a dental practice in Citrus Heights, California, and I do general dentistry. I work with patients of all ages. I opened my solo practice 17 years ago.

I was born in Ukraine. I decided to become a dentist after I graduated high school. I was living in Ukraine at the time. As a Christian, I didn’t join the Communist Party because it was against my values. But because I wasn’t a Communist Party member, no dental school in Ukraine would admit me, so I attended dental school in Latvia. Latvia was also a country in the former USSR, but they had slightly more religious freedom, so I was able to move there to go to dental school.

After finishing the dental program, I moved back to Ukraine, where I started working as a dentist. I worked in Ukraine for 15 years.

Why did you decide to become a dentist?

When I was in school, I knew I wanted to be in medical field the whole time. I thought I’d like family medicine, but it was extremely difficult to get into school for that. So, I decided to go into dentistry, and I really liked it! I’ve been working in dentistry for 41 years now.

When did you move to the United States?

I moved in the United States in 1994 with my husband, two children and my in-laws. I learned that California had a program for foreign dentists, and after passing the board exam in 1995, I got a California license.

When I arrived, I didn’t speak a word of English ― I’d never even heard English before. To teach myself, I started with a dictionary. I would read, and then I would write on the other side of the paper what the word meant. Those were my English classes, basically: dictionary, paper and a pen.

How did you settle on Citrus Heights? What made you decide to move there?

The Sacramento area has a large Slavic community, and I already knew a lot of people here. For my first five years in the U.S., I worked for a dental group. They told me that I was the dentist the doing most production for their office, so I decided to start my own practice! I opened my dental office here in 2005.

Tell us about your day-to-day. What kind of patients do you see? What do you do?

I see all different kinds of patients. My assistant takes x-rays, but I do the exam and treatment plan. I do everything from start to finish except for implants.

These days, I try not to work on Fridays, but I work on demand. If people tell me that they can only come in on a Friday, then I’m happy to come in. Sometimes people even come from San Francisco and Seattle. I have a couple of patients from Boise, and I even have one who called an hour ago coming from Missouri.

Wow! Why do you think patients come from so far to see you?

I think it’s because they trust me. Some of them have known me for 40 years.

What do you enjoy most about being a dentist?

Well, I like to do root canals! I like challenges. I like when people leave happy and smiling. And sometimes when people get new teeth, it can even be life changing. They’re more self-confident when they have a nice smile ― they’re no longer depressed, and they make new friends. Making people happy, when they leave my office happy — that’s what I enjoy most.

As I mentioned, there’s a large and diverse Slavic community here, and many of them come to my practice because there’s no language barrier, especially in the case of the elderly population. Many people are often anxious about going to the dentist, so I try to make it a simple, relaxed experience for them — no pressure.

When you’re not practicing dentistry, what do you like to do in your free time?

I love gardening, I love traveling, and I have seven grandkids in the area who come by my house on the weekends. They keep me busy! Even though I love gardening, I’m doing it less and less every year. I’m busier with the grandkids and with traveling to new places with the family.

I understand that your son has a pretty interesting job.

Yes, he does. He graduated with a degree in master choral orchestra conducting. He’s a high school music teacher, but he also has a non-profit choir, Slavic Chorale. They perform at all kinds of different events and perform in different languages. He absolutely loves choir — he’s into it every day. By the way, I wanted him to be a dentist or doctor, but it wasn’t his thing.

My daughter has been a physician’s assistant for 12 years, though, so I did get one child involved in the medical industry!

What challenges do you see facing the dental industry in the future?

I think that the biggest challenges that I see are dentistry becoming more corporate and the increasing student loans for dental students.

As dentistry becomes more and more corporate, small private practices might get pushed out of the competition. As a result, it’s going to be more and more difficult to have a dentist who can truly be your family dentist over the years. It’s going to be more like a factory instead.

Also, student loans are getting larger and larger, which makes it so much more difficult for new graduates to open their own practice.

It sounds like there are a lot of challenges for recent graduates of dental school. What advice would you give them?

I’d advise them to go to work with another dentist as associate in an office and try to do different kinds of procedures.

Also, try to be nice to people. Be patient. Make them smile.


Congratulations to Dr. Lyudmila Kravchuk on being our Dental Health Partner of the Month! Thank you for sharing your story with us. To learn more about Dr. Kravchuk and her practice, check out Lyudmila Kravchuk Dental Corporation on Facebook.

Coming soon: Continuing education courses for Delta Dental dentists

Staying up to date on new trends and techniques in dentistry is essential for dental professionals. That’s why we’re partnering with dental schools across the country to offer continuing education courses to Delta Dental dentists at a discount.

You’ll earn continuing education credits that can help you meet licensure requirements, improve your clinical skills and provide optimum care for your patients.

What courses will be available?

Here’s a quick look at the courses that will be available this fall. Our course list is continuously growing, with new courses coming soon.

DateSchoolCourse titleStateCredits
10/7/2022University of Pittsburgh School of Dental MedicineDigital Dentistry: The Engine that Supercharges Practice GrowthPA6
10/14/2022University of Alabama at Birmingham School of DentistryIntegrative Dental Medicine: The Next Great FrontierAL6
10/15/2022University of California San Francisco School of DentistryPeriodontics and Oral MedicineCA6
10/28/2022The Dental College of Georgia at Augusta UniversityGeneral Dentistry & Problem SolvingGA6
10/29/2022Nova Southeastern University College of Dental MedicineUsing Risk Assessment for Treatment Planning in DentistryFL6
Nov. 2022Columbia University, College of Dental MedicineManagement of Special Needs Patients and Pediatric Dental TraumaNY6

While most courses are planned for in-person sessions, this is subject to change depending on the public health situation, and virtual offerings may also be available.

Who’s eligible to sign up?

These courses are available to all dental professionals, but as a Delta Dental network dentist, you can enjoy a special discount when you enroll.

How can I sign up?

Registration will be available through the hosting school. Enrollment isn’t yet open, but details will be coming soon.

To stay in the loop, subscribe to FYI for monthly updates in your inbox, attend an upcoming webinar for more info and bookmark the training and events page, where flyers with more details will be posted over the next few weeks. We’ll also send out targeted emails by state to let you know about the upcoming courses in your area.

Medicare Advantage DHMO updates for 2022

It’s a new year, and that means there’s a new crop of partners joining Medicare Advantage. If you’re part of Delta Dental’s Medicare Advantage DHMO network, members of these groups with a Delta Dental Medicare Advantage DHMO plan can choose your practice as their primary care facility. If you don’t currently participate in this network, we still encourage you to review the following information.

Here’s a quick look at the new Medicare Advantage DHMO partners for 2022.

  • Bright Health covers approximately 7,500 members in Arizona, Illinois, Florida and New York.
  • Brand New Day has over 50,000 members throughout the state of California, from Placer and Sacramento counties in the north all the way down to San Diego and Imperial counties.
  • InterValley Health Plan serves about 17,000 members in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, with members in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
  • Western Health Advantage covers about 2,300 members in California’s wine country, including Marin, Napa, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.

Additionally, the following Medicare Advantage partnerships are continuing in 2022. Some partners are making changes that may affect the coverage available to your patients. For partners who are updating their benefits, be sure to use Provider Tools to see details!

  • Central Health Medicare Plan in California has expanded to San Mateo County and enhanced their benefits for all divisions.
  • WellCare in California’s Orange and San Diego coverage is continuing DHMO coverage for its members.
  • SCAN Health Plan is expanding to San Mateo and Alameda counties in California.
  • Kaiser California Medicare is adding a new diagnostic and preventive benefit in California counties.
  • Kaiser Georgia Medicare is enhancing benefits and expanding to Newton, Rockdale, Spalding, Walton, Barrow and Butts counties in Georgia.
  • Stanford Healthcare Advantage in California is updating its website but making no changes to its DHMO offering at this time.

Nearly a million members nationwide have access to a Medicare Advantage plan through Delta Dental, and every day for the next decade, about 10,000 Americans will turn 65. By 2030, approximately 18% of the nation’s population will be 65 or older. Joining the Medicare Advantage DHMO network represents an incredible opportunity to expand your business by serving this growing market!

By joining the Medicare Advantage DHMO network, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:

  • Your practice will be listed in our Medicare Advantage network directory.
  • You’ll retain patients who are joining a Medicare Advantage plan. Their DHMO plans require that they visit Medicare Advantage network dentists.
  • You’ll grow your business with new Medicare Advantage patients looking for an in-network dentist.

Interested? To apply for participation in the Delta Dental Medicare Advantage DHMO network, please email medadv@delta.org. We’ll send you an application and contract.

Your dental policy brief: News updates as of February 7

From the latest on COVID vaccines and policy to recent court rulings, FYI brings you the biggest dental policy stories.

1. California law may expand dental coverage

A new law may open the door for some California adults and seniors to obtain dental insurance.

Set to take effect in 2023, California Assembly Bill 570, or the Parent Healthcare Act, will allow adult children to add their dependent parents and stepparents to their individual major medical insurance plans. The state estimates that as many as 15,000 people might be covered under the new law, which has no age limitations.

The law applies only to individual medical plans, including those that offer dental coverage, and doesn’t apply to specialized health care service plans that cover only dental. Employer-sponsored plans and Medicare supplement insurance are also excluded.

2. New federal law requires dentists to provide cost estimates to certain patients

The No Surprises Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, gives uninsured and self-pay consumers certain billing protections. Most notably for dentists, the act requires that many dentists, including those who practice in private dental offices, provide good faith estimates for the cost of care to these patients if they request them or schedule service.

  • After the request is made or service is scheduled, dentists and facilities must provide the good faith estimate in writing within three business days. Either a paper or printable electronic copy of the estimate is required.
  • If the actual charges exceed the estimate by $400 or more, the patient or an authorized representative can initiate a patient-provider dispute resolution process and seek a determination from an independent third-party certified by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

There are no specific specialties, facilities or service sites that are exempt from this requirement, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). However, the requirement doesn’t apply to patients with coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, the Indian Health Service, Veterans Affairs Health Care or TRICARE.

For questions about good faith estimates and the dispute resolution process, CMS has provided this guidance to dentists and facilities.

3. Court blocks large-employer vaccine mandate, upholds mandate for federal facilities

Two recent decisions by U.S. Supreme Court concerning the COVID-19 vaccine may affect dental offices. The court ruled on Jan. 13 to block a federal mandate that required large employers (such as dental practices with 100 or more employees) to ensure that all their employees either received the COVID-19 vaccine or wear facemasks and submit to weekly tests.

Conversely, the court upheld a mandate that requires staff at federally funded health care facilities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The rule affects certain dentists, including those who work in Medicare or Medicaid facilities such as nursing homes, surgical centers and hospitals. However, the ruling excludes private dental practices that serve Medicare or Medicaid patients.

Medicare Advantage PPO updates for 2022

It’s a new year, and that means there’s a new crop of partners joining Medicare Advantage. If you’re part of Delta Dental’s Medicare Advantage PPO network, you can see the members of these groups. And if you haven’t opted in, consider this: every year for the next decade, about 10,000 Americans will turn 65. By 2030, approximately 18% of the nation’s population will be 65 or older. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to expand your business by serving this growing market!

Here’s a quick look at the groups joining us for the first time and updating their plans this year.

  • Alignment Health Plan is a new group with approximately 2,500 members in northern and southern California. Members who choose expanded dental coverage can access the Delta Dental Medicare Advantage PPO network.
  • Aspire Health Plan is backed by Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, bringing coverage to Monterey County in California. Beginning in 2022, certain diagnostic and preventive care benefits will be covered at 100%.
  • CDPHP Medicare serves the Capital Region in New York. In 2022, CDPHP will be expanding to St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties.
  • CHRISTUS Health Plan offers Medicare Advantage dental coverage in the state of Texas and select areas of New Mexico.
  • Essence Healthcare serves members in the San Francisco Bay Area. Essence Healthcare was previously known as Stanford Healthcare Advantage.
  • Health Choice Utah offers coverage in all counties throughout the state of Utah.
  • Some Molina Healthcare states are moving outside of our network. In 2022, Delta Dental will be partnered with Molina Healthcare in California, Florida, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin.
  • Select Health Advantage is available in Nevada in Clark and Nye counties.

Nearly a million members nationwide have access to a Medicare Advantage plan through Delta Dental. By joining the Medicare Advantage PPO network, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:

  • Your practice will be listed in our Medicare Advantage network directory
  • You’ll retain patients who are joining a Medicare Advantage plan. Their fee-for-service plans require that they visit Medicare Advantage network dentists.
  • You’ll grow your business with new Medicare Advantage patients looking for an in-network dentist.

Interested? To apply for participation in the Delta Dental Medicare Advantage PPO network, please email medadv@delta.org. We’ll send you an application and contract.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Dean Salo

Early on, Dr. Dean Salo discovered he had a talent and passion for working with his hands. This has enabled him to improve oral health in distinctive ways as a dentist.

“When I was a kid, it started with model making,” he said. “I used to love buying those kits, putting together different model cars and painting them. I had to have a scalpel and a paintbrush, and that was my passion for many, many years.”

Such skills in analysis and design ran in his family, as both his father and sister were engineers.  “I looked at dentistry as a part of medicine that has a lot of engineering,” Dr. Salo said, “and the kind of dentistry I practice has a lot of reconstruction and engineering. My big passion is building things.”

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from UCLA and at age 24 earned his DDS from the University of the Pacific. A Los Angeles resident since early childhood, he started practice at the Personal Dental Office in Beverly Hills in 1992.

Fourteen years later, he took over the practice and became a hands-on working owner. He envisioned managing a thriving patient-focused practice.

The vision: A multispecialty practice

Today, Personal Dental Office is a state-of-the-art dental care center. Dr. Salo works with business manager Renata Kruk to manage a practice that delivers personalized services and care to patients.

“With Renata helping me,” Dr. Salo recalled, “we became one of the few multispecialty practices around, where patients could come in and see an orthodontist, or an oral surgeon, or a general dentist, or a hygienist, and they wouldn’t have to go from office to office. Our staff specialists were able to communicate with each other very well, because we had one chart where every specialist could record findings to share with the others.

Ms. Kruk, a full-time staff member since 2004, noted that the well-equipped office has computer screens for patients to view dental work in progress, and it showcases the latest digital and scanning technologies.

“We have a 3-D CAT camera that takes a video that we email to our lab,” Dr. Salo explained. “We’re able to mill restorations for both natural teeth and implants, and we make nightguards out of video-imaging – which is three-dimensional impressions – so we don’t have to take a physical impression.”

The focus: Knowing the patients

Dr. Salo’s Personal Dental Office is set up to give “very individualized, personalized care” to patients, Ms. Kruk described. The dentists and staff take time to get to know their patients, not just as clients but also as people with unique concerns.

“We are a large family practice that basically accommodates everything for the patients,” Dr. Salo said. “And we want to know everything about the patients, because the more we know, the more we can fit into their lives, and the more we know what to provide for them.”

June is Pride Month, and from the start, the Personal Dental Office has offered a safe, compassionate, welcoming environment for all patients, including LGBT community members.

“We’re open and accepting, HMO or PPO, race or gender, sexual orientation, open and welcoming,” Dr. Salo said.

A dental school student in the 1990s, Dr. Salo recalled his experiences working with patients at the University of California, San Francisco Hospital during the AIDS crisis.

“As a young dentist, I watched people suffer from HIV periodontitis and immune diseases, so I was trained and comfortable in treating any kind of immune disease that came along,” he said. “At that time, a lot of people with AIDS didn’t have a lot of places to go to get dental care, and they would come to dental schools, because a lot of private practices were too afraid to treat them.”

Afterwards, when he started his practice, he focused on state-of-the-art sterilization and disinfection procedures, and established comfort levels with patients. “The main thing was authenticity,” he pointed out. “I wanted patients to tell me what was wrong with them, tell me about themselves and their lifestyle and about what’s important to them. With Pride, you get to know the patients and let them feel comfortable with us. We tell them about us and let them tell us about them. In this way, we can serve and keep this relationship going.”

The environment: Calm and stress-free

Sensitive to patients who have “dental-phobia”, Dr. Salo makes sure his team takes steps to alleviate anxiety during treatment.

He has an anesthesia license and, through calm demeanor, he and his staff “build confidence through painless procedures”.

If gentle techniques don’t work, the office accommodates patients with more severe anxiety. For 20 years, a certified anesthesiology group has provided customized treatment. “Our staff is trained to deal with patients who are dental ‘chickens’, like myself,” Ms. Kruk added. “We have fun working with them, and 98 percent of our patients’ nerves are soothed here.”

The art: Perfecting the smile

The challenge of creating beautiful smiles has inspired Dr. Salo in his skillful work as a dental architect.

“It’s part of our first attraction,” he said.  “When you see a beautiful smile, it’s the pleasure of a conversation. You know this person has nothing to hide and is confident, and you’re ready to open up and discuss things with that person. That was always my incentive, to make patients feel confident.”

Although patients may have different ideas about outcomes, whether to look natural for their age or maybe younger, Dr. Salo takes their information and goes to work “to architect the smile to their desires and to their facial structure.” This involves discussions about tooth length, color, angle, brightness and customization to arrive at what the patient wants.

Although he now focuses his efforts on reconstruction and implant cases, he does collaborate on aesthetics cases with his daughter Madelyne, who joined the practice after earning her dental degree during the pandemic.

“We are different than other offices in that we’re trying to give the patient a trial moment,” said Dr. Salo.

Ms. Kruk added, “We design it and let them try it on and see how they feel, before they commit a whole new look. And we give them an opportunity to wear it and see what the experience is like and how life-changing a new smile is.”

The return to normalcy: Lessons from COVID

The Personal Dental Office has stayed busy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My house became a call center,” Ms. Kruk said. “We were working nonstop, and we were getting patients from other clinics, because doctors were not accommodating patients. We became emergency central.”

Dr. Salo noted one pandemic side-effect boosted patient activity. “Everybody wanted a great Zoom smile. That has been the blessing for dentistry for the last year.”

He looks forward to patients getting back to regular appointment scheduling and care without worrying about office safety.

“I want to see them get their oral health back in place, not only beautiful teeth but healthy gums,” he said. “My number one goal is to reinstate them back into our hygiene department. We will make sure they’re comfortable coming back into the office and know how safe it is.”

The business model: Being authentic

With his accomplishments, Dr. Salo finds the most fulfillment in the depth of relationships, with his family, his community, his staff and patients, some of them with 30-year histories.

“I am very transparent in who I am,” Dr. Salo said. “I’d like everybody to be as authentic as my family. I truly have the longest-serving employees in the industry. Employees who leave will come back. Every one of our employees represents us and represents me. They are happy working with us, and it’s same thing with our patients.

“We want to know how we can help them, if they need a ride, if they can’t afford care, how we can better their lives and how we can fit into their lives, looking at a long-term relationship. It’s not just making you beautiful, it’s to keep you healthy.

Dr. Salo’s Personal Dental Office has a business model matched to his personality. “We are authentic, humble people and want people to be comfortable with who they are. It’s all about your kids and your friends, and doing good work, having happy employees and happy patients.”

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