Dentist blog from Delta Dental

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Staff spotlight: Debbie Jones

What does work at a dentist’s office look like for an insurance administrator? We asked this month’s Dental Health Partner of the Month, Debbie Jones of Orthodontic Associates in Baltimore, Maryland, that question, and she told us that it looks like a rewarding career spent helping people and working alongside inspiring co-workers. Debbie started out at the front desk, doing consultations and treatment planning with patients. From there, she became the insurance administrator of a multi-office practice serving the greater Baltimore area.

What originally attracted you to the field? What made you want to stay once you were in?

My son was in school, and I was looking for a part-time job. I found one at a general dentistry practice. I learned a lot from the owner’s wife, who was the office manager and very knowledgeable. I started working the front desk, answering phones and doing insurance claims.

When I left that job, I was looking for something full-time and closer to my home, and then I came across Dr. Miller’s practice. They had an opening for an insurance administrator, and I’d loved doing that at my previous job. Helping people figure out their coverage feels like solving a puzzle, and the codes for orthodontics are very easy to familiarize yourself with. With the doctor’s training and advice at this practice, I’ve learned a lot, too.

This is also a very nice place to work. The office feels like a family, and Dr. Miller in particular feels like a cousin. He has a great relationship with the doctors he works with. A lot of them started with us right out of dental school. Dr. Miller’s youngest son joined the practice just this past year, in fact!

What does an average day look like in your role?

Generally, I come in in the morning, check messages and email, and try to help patients who are having problems with their claims and insurance companies who have reached out to us for information.

Back when I first started out, most patients only had insurance from one carrier, and it rarely changed. Now, I would say at least 50% of our patients have dual coverage, so coordinating benefits gets interesting.

Talking to insurance company reps that really understand their product makes it an enjoyable experience. I’ve found Delta Dental’s reps are generally very stable and knowledgeable about their product. They’re easy to work with.

What do you think is the best way for a dentist’s office and an insurance carrier to work together to take care of patients?

Having good customer support and an easy-to-use an online system go a long way towards helping dentists care for their patients. It’s nice to be able to call on a phone and speak to a rep when need to reach out about an issue, but being able to get patients’ info with just a few clicks is very helpful.

September is Healthy Aging Month. What do you think dentists and dental office staff can do to best serve senior citizens and aging populations?

We don’t do general dentistry, so I don’t have much information on that. But I can tell you that Dr. Miller and his associates believe strongly that we should accept patients of all ages. We have patients who came in with problems that are caused by the natural aging process, and sometimes orthodontic treatment can help them and get them to a better place. So we advertise to and educate patients of all ages, not just teenagers or 20- and 30-somethings.

Dr. Miller offers free consultations with no obligations, and we go over the patient’s insurance and their payment options, and we emphasize start-to-finish total costs, so everything is very easy for people to understand.

What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies you enjoy?

Well, my husband is an ex-chef. He does all the cooking, and we watch cooking shows together for fun. I’m also an avid reader. A few years ago, my son gave me an iPad, and I use it to download and read e-books.

Also, and I’m not going to be ashamed of saying it: I’m a huge Judge Judy fan, and I watch her every day. Finally, I spend a lot of time with my grandchildren. I have three, and the two older ones are involved in a lot of sports, so the whole family goes to their events.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your job, or if you were speaking to someone just starting today, what advice would you give?

What I would say is the thing my first office manager told me: It’s your job to know everything about the patient, the patient’s chart and the doctor’s treatment plan. Ask questions. Look at everything and review it closely.

I remember when I started, I would say, “Oh, I don’t really need to look at the patient’s treatment card, because that’s not my business.” And my office manager would tell me, “No, you have to know your patients and what the doctors are doing so that you can give the patients the best service.”

If you don’t know the answer to a question, find someone who does and ask. If you know the answers to questions, or where to find the answers, nothing can upset your day.

Is there anything that you wish dentists better understood about your role as an insurance administrator?

That’s a hard question. I would say, “If we do our job, you don’t have to worry about what’s going on.” I’ve known Dr. Miller a long time, and in this practice, the staff does a good job keeping on top of everything. Dr. Miller and his associates have explained their business philosophy to us and they’re always available when we have questions.

But we strive to not have any of the doctors worrying about patients’ insurance. Their main focus should be on the patient in the chair. They can lean on the staff, and we’re going to get it done.

Any last thoughts?

This is rewarding work. We’re not on the front lines of medicine, stitching people up or anything like that, but I do know that we’re helping people out. It’s rewarding to know that you’re providing a smooth experience for patients and making it something they don’t have to worry about.

We have patients we’ve treated since they were small, and patients who bring the children and grandchildren to us when they need care. My son introduced me to a friend of his, and she remembered me from helping her with her orthodontic treatment when she was a teen. That’s what I like about working in dental insurance. That and the flexible hours!

Congratulations to Debbie Jones of Orthodontic Associates for being our Dental Health Partner of the Month! We appreciate her taking the time to speak with us, and we know that the patients she’s helped make sense of their insurance coverage appreciate her, too.

Join the Medicare Advantage network this open enrollment season

Have you become a Medicare Advantage (MA) network dentist yet? If not, you may be missing out on a great opportunity to add more patients to your practice. Regular Medicare patients don’t have dental care, but Medicare Advantage plans are different.

What are Medicare Advantage plans?

Medicare Advantage plans (also known as Part C or MA plans) are plans offered by Medicare-approved private companies that follow the rules set by Medicare. These plans are still considered to be Medicare, but they offer coverage for services that standard Medicare doesn’t cover, such as vision, hearing and, most importantly for you, dental.

Why join the Medicare Advantage network?

Joining the Medicare Advantage network can be a great choice for your practice. Nearly 20% of the United States’ population will be 65 or older by 2030, according to Census projections. That will mean about 65 million eligible Medicare Advantage patients.

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

  • Your practice will be listed in our Medicare Advantage network directory
  • You’ll retain current patients who join the Medicare Advantage network and are required to visit an MA network dentist
  • You’ll gain access to new patients who are looking for an MA network dentist

Open enrollment starts October 15 and runs through December 7. After the open enrollment period ends, coverage will begin January 1, 2022. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

How can I join?

In order to apply for participation in the Delta Dental Medicare Advantage provider network, please send an email to, and we will reply with an application and contract.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Eric Huynh and Dr. Saranya Viyapon

When dentistry is a family affair, work-life balance is more important than ever. For married dentists Dr. Eric Huynh and Dr. Saranya Viyapon, staying busy is a virtue, but so is taking time to focus on themselves and their family. Not only does the Texas twosome owns and operates Oasis Dental in Keller and Confi-Dental in Fort Worth, they also find time to run multiple other businesses and tend to their three daughters. The busy couple works hard, plays hard and enjoys every minute of it.

How and when did you two meet?

click follow site betrayal definition essay on friendship enter site chick evans scholarship essay here personal evaluation essay pregnancy after stopping clomid buddha purnima festival essay in hindi see url q le pasa a una mujer si toma viagra cialis due volte settimana being biased in a persuasive essay go to link erika viagra thesis statements for persuasive speeches go clomid questions enter site click vid amazon viagra natural see definition of an exemplification essay Dr. Eric Huynh: I owned three offices back then. Sara came in for an interview and we didn’t hire her because she was out of our budget. She was going to school in Philadelphia back then but was moving back to Texas to be closer to her family. I told her if she ever wanted to come out with me and my friends, she was welcome to join us. That’s what really happened. Even though we didn’t hire her, she went out with us, we became friends and the next thing you know, we were married. It all worked out. We’ve been together 18 years now. It goes by faster than anyone could imagine.

When did you each decide that you wanted to be a dentist and why?

Dr. Saranya Viyapon: I’m originally from Thailand and we believe in taking care of people, so I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field. I like my schedule to be 9 to 5 but as a doctor, you need to be on call. I knew that wasn’t going to be a good fit for me, so I decided to study dentistry.

I love being a dentist. We’re very busy, but we’re very lucky!

Dr. Huynh: I was pre-med and studying quite a bit, but, to be honest, my score was only a little above average and I wanted to excel at whatever I did. I liked dentistry, also, so at the last minute I switched. It was such a blessing and it worked out quite well. I love being a dentist so much! 

What do you love about being dentists?

Dr. Huynh: Well, I talk a lot, and I love my patients. Most of them have been with me since 1997, when I graduated and was just starting out. We have three or four generations working in my office and everyone feels like family. It doesn’t feel like work anymore. It’s really fun. We’re very blessed. People come here and they stay here. My staff has been with me for 20 years. We’re growing old together. 

Dr. Viyapon: Being a dentist, I just love checking in with my patients. Once in a while, we get patients who are uncomfortable with the dentist and after a while they feel better about it. That’s very rewarding to me. Sometimes we’ll see patients and they’re excited to see you and tell you that they love the way their teeth feel after a cleaning. It’s the little stuff! Plus, it’s great to help people get out of pain.

What are the best and worst parts of being married to another dentist?

Dr. Viyapon: It’s so nice being married to another dentist because we understand each other’s work. We can talk about our days so easily.

Dr. Huynh: We don’t work together in the same office, so the good thing is that we can refer patients to each other if they have certain preferences about their dentist. We can also consult with each other for different cases, which is really nice. But worst? We don’t really have many issues. We have three kids, and that’s enough!

What does quality patient care mean to you?

Dr. Viyapon: Taking care of a patient as a whole and the best that we can. If something is out of our comfort zone, we’ll refer them to a specialist. 

Dr. Huynh: For me, it’s taking care of whatever they need to the best of your ability. My patients are almost family to me. I give all of them my cellphone number, but they’re so respectful about it. They only call when they really need to. I try to think of my patients like they’re my mom, my dad, my sister. I want them to feel comfortable expressing themselves. If they have hesitation and don’t trust you, there’s a problem. 

I think that’s why we don’t have many issues. If there’s a problem, we want them to know that we’ll take care of it. Basically, if they’re happy, I’m happy. 

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to yourself when you were first starting out?

Dr. Huynh: You don’t need to do everything. I was trying so hard to do it all when I started and I had to learn to delegate more. Don’t let everything stress you out because it will work out.

I think dental school can be a rough time for a lot of people. Instructors could be really hard on us and I think they’re much tougher on you than the patients are. Nothing can faze you after that. It made us better people now.

Dr. Viyapon: I’d say, don’t take it too personally. When I started out, nobody told me that, and I’d get patients who just didn’t like going to the dentist. Sometimes it’s nothing personal and we just need to be more understanding with the patient. 

Some patients have a hard time opening up because they think we’re just trying to make money and doing unnecessary work. That’s hard for younger people to learn, because when you’re starting out you think everything will be so ideal. 

What do you do in your free time? Any hobbies?

Dr. Huynh: I am quite busy, besides dentistry. We have three daughters. After the first one, I decided to not work so much because I wanted to spend time with her. We’re very hands on with the kids. As I got older, I got into other businesses. I do real estate outside of this, and it’s tremendously fun. We also own an event center. Dentistry is our 9 to 5, but after that everything is very different.

If I wasn’t a dentist, I’d be an event planner. I love the creative side of it. We really love it, and the kids get involved, too. It’s great for learning business but also brings us closer. We’re always bouncing ideas off each other and working together. It was never supposed to be like this, but I’m very grateful that it is.

Dr. Viyapon: We have three jobs, but we enjoy all of them! On top of that, our oldest daughter just became the president of the drill team this year, so now I’m president of the dance moms! 

To relax, I do yoga and we always take breaks from work. We take long weekends and we go out with friends — especially on Friday nights! During the week, Dr. Huynh does all the cooking, but on the weekends the kitchen is closed, and we always go out to eat. We like to take vacations when the kids are out of school. When we go out or take a break, we only focus on that.

Congratulations to Dr. Eric Huynh and Dr. Saranya Viyapon on being our Dental Health Partners of the Month. Learn more about their practices Confi-Dental and Oasis Dental.

Dental fraud — what it is and how you can help fight it

An estimated 3% of the United States’ total spending on health care is caused by fraud, according to the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association. That may sound like a small percentage, but with dental spending projected to reach $203 billion by 2027, that means we can expect to face over $6 billion in dental fraud.

Dental fraud is “any crime where an individual receives insurance money for filing a false claim, inflating a claim or billing for services not rendered,” according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Fraud can take many forms, but it requires intent, deception and unlawful gain.

Fraud harms everyone in the dental industry. It not only drives up the cost of coverage for patients and employers, but it can also directly affect your practice. Being found guilty of perpetrating fraud can result in fines, loss of professional licenses and even jail time!

Educate yourself and your staff on how to stay on the right side of the law. The ADA (PDF) and Delta Dental can help you, and your state’s dental board may have resources as well.

Common signs of fraud to watch out for

Because fraud requires intent and deception, there are signs that you and your staff can watch out for from patients who commit dental fraud. Stay alert for:

  • Patients who use another person’s ID or multiple IDs to obtain benefits
  • Patients who request that you misreport dates to circumvent calendar year maximums or limitations
  • Patients who misrepresent their available coverage or ask you to misrepresent care to their insurance (including concealing dual coverage)

Because fraud can be perpetrated by both patients and care providers, having clear policies can help prevent fraud before it begins. Make sure your practice prohibits the following:

  • Regular failure to collect a patient’s payment without notifying the carrier
  • Claims for covered services when non-covered services are provided
  • Recommendation of unnecessary services

Although fraud requires intent, it’s possible to commit mistakes that could unknowingly get you into trouble. It’s entirely possible to unknowingly commit fraud in an attempt to help patients who might be seeking help with their coverage. For example, waiving coinsurance costs is one example of this. In other cases, it might be a simple oversight. Common mistakes considered fraud include:

  • Listing the incorrect treating dentist on a claim
  • Coding the wrong treatment (for example, prophylaxis vs. periodontal maintenance)
  • Altering dates of service

What you can do to help protect your practice

Fraud can happen at any point in the process of providing care, accepting payment and submitting claims, but having clear, consistently applied policies for your practice can help everyone play their part in fighting fraud. Here are some general steps your practice can take.

  • Make arrangements for payment with patients prior to providing services. This includes discussing coverage and fees, especially for optional and non-covered services, so that patients fully understand what their financial obligations are.
  • Discontinue relationships with patients who don’t make reasonable efforts to pay.
  • Write out a fraud policy, including examples. Make sure that your office staff has read and signed this policy.
  • Divide the tasks related to processing payments among multiple staff members. For example, have one person accept payments and another make the adjustments in patient records.
  • As a dentist or practice owner, review the claims your practice submits. Claims are considered to be legal documents submitted with your authorization. The dentist listed is legally responsible for the accuracy and honesty of a claim, even if an office manager or other staff member submits the claim.

Here are some things you can do every month to help fight fraud.

  • Mail monthly reminders to patients of their balances and minimums due.
  • Forward large uncollectable balances to a professional collections agency.
  • Review collection and production reports each month. Make sure your bank statement and your office records agree.
  • Check the percentages on your monthly profit and loss records, as well as any year-over-year changes. For example, if supplies cost about 8% of your income a year ago and you’re spending 10% this year, find out why.

What Delta Dental does to help prevent fraud

You don’t have to combat fraud on your own. We’re proud to be your partners in working to eliminate fraud at all levels and steps of the dental care process. What we do includes:

  • Educate our clients, members, dentists and employees about fraud detection and prevention
  • Conduct clinical patient examinations to ensure that provided services meet professional standards and were correctly submitted
  • Review financial and treatment records to ensure contracts are followed
  • Report potential cases to state and federal law enforcement and cooperate with fraud investigations
  • Pursue the recovery of funds when fraud is suspected
  • Terminate contracts when fraud is confirmed

If you suspect someone is committing fraud, report it. Call Delta Dental’s Anti-Fraud Hotline at 800-526-1852. You may remain anonymous during this call.

By making sure that you and your staff stay on top of the law, having understandable and consistent policies and maintaining good relationships with paying patients, you can help keep your practice in the green and trouble-free.

Positioned for success: workplace ergonomics in the dental office

Imagine you’re in the middle of a clinical procedure. Are your neck and upper back straining as you try to get a better view? Are your hands and wrists clenched and tense? Are your legs dangling or crossed? If you answered “yes,” you’re not alone.

Many people struggle to maintain good posture throughout the day. Unfortunately, bad posture can contribute to the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and muscle strain. For dentists and other dental professionals, MSDs are the leading cause for early retirement. At least 62% of dentists report one musculoskeletal complaint, with the most prevalent areas of pain being in the lower back and neck.

The good news is that you don’t need to accept pain as a part of your job. With proper ergonomics, you can identify and address work-related pain.

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics is a philosophy that promotes designing workplaces to fit human needs so workers don’t need to strain to perform their jobs. The goal is to make you more efficient without compromising your safety. You can do this by maintaining a neutral position as much as possible and limiting tasks that cause strain. That means setting up workstations so everything you need is in reach or using special equipment, like footrests, to maintain a 90-degree bend in the knee.

Equipment can’t do all the work, though. State-of-the-art tools and gadgets should be paired with good posture to prevent potential MSDs. Practicing good posture is also the cheapest and quickest way to begin an ergonomic program.

What does good posture look like?

Unfortunately, careers in oral health are rife with opportunities to slouch and strain. To prevent MSDs, take note of these tips for good posture.

  • Spinal alignment. Maintain an erect, neutral spine instead of bending forward or leaning over the patient.
  • Proximity. Move your stool as close as possible to the patient’s head to minimize the need to overextend your arms or back.
  • Position. Keep your feet flat on the floor or the footrest of your stool. Adjust your stool height so your thighs slope slightly downward. Sit, rather than stand, for all clinical procedures. Hold your wrists in a neutral position and minimize wrist movement.
  • Weight distribution. Evenly distribute your weight in a tripod pattern, through each foot on the floor and your stool.
  • Equipment. Consider using a loupe to minimize the need to perch on the edge of your stool to see. If your overhead light is too dim or casts too many shadows, consider a head-mounted light as an alternative. Avoid gripping instruments tightly.
  • Stretching. When possible, take 10 minutes to get up and stretch your spine, arms and legs. Stretching during and after work can help relax strained muscles.
  • Exercise. Some poor posture habits begin with a weak core. Your core muscles act as a brace to your lower back when engaged, but using them all day can be exhausting. Train your core to make it easier to maintain good posture.

With tight schedules and productivity quotas, it can be difficult to prioritize time-consuming tasks like re-positioning patients. If you can’t eliminate strain, reducing it is still helpful. One easy way to reduce strain is to have your patients scoot to the end of the headrest once the chair is reclined. Eliminating those few inches between the top of their head and the top of the headrest shrinks the space for you to lean over.

The ergonomic office

For practice owners, investing in ergonomic training and supporting healthy practices has long-term benefits like preventing unwanted retirement, reducing canceled appointments and lessening the need for disability leave.

Ultimately, though, these suggestions are just the beginning. Most dental tools were developed with an average male dentist in mind, which may put people with smaller builds at a disadvantage. With ergonomics, there isn’t one solution to address every problem. You need to consider your and your team’s individual needs.

When implementing changes, remember to include the whole office. Your practice manager and front desk assistants also have ergonomic needs like monitor positioning and desk height. Encourage your team to communicate when they’re struggling with strain so that issues can be addressed early on. Approve time off to visit the doctor when needed. 

Even small changes can have a huge impact towards becoming an ergonomically healthy practice.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Amanda Rafi

Going to the dentist isn’t everyone’s favorite errand, but as we all know, a good experience can make all the difference. For dentists like Dr. Amanda Rafi, a dentist has the power to be a fixer, a friend and even an inspiration — and that’s why she’s our Dental Health Partner of the Month.

Dr. Rafi owns and operates three different practices alongside her husband in Orange County and Riverside, California, as well as in her hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. She says she owes it all to her own formative experiences with going to the dentist.

After graduating with honors from the University of Arizona and earning her Master of Public Health at A.T. Still University, she obtained her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health. It was during this time that she met her now-husband and business partner, Dr. Ryan Baker. After graduation, the two set off to his home state to build a successful and flourishing practice out of Tustin, California, where she specializes in cosmetic and family dentistry.

What made you want to become a dentist?

When I was younger, about 12, I wanted to be an orthodontist because I just had gotten braces and I really thought it was so interesting and creative. I got interested in it from there, and then I got into dental school and I realized that I really like all aspects of dentistry. So, I didn’t specialize — I focused on cosmetics and things like that, but I love to do it all! I do crowns, bridges and root canals, and all of it’s really fun to me.

What do you love about being a dentist?

Just helping people. I think the biggest thing is making sure that people feel comfortable. When they come to the dentist, people tend to feel very uncomfortable. I don’t know if a childhood experience or what really contributed to that, but when they get here I try to make them feel as at home as possible and make sure that they leave with a smile at the end of the day. 

I think communication is a big part of that, and so is making eye contact. Just talking to them like a normal person and not using big dental terminology is a big thing. I noticed when I shadowed other dentists that they used big words that someone who didn’t go to dental school probably wouldn’t understand. That makes people more uneasy because they don’t know what it is.

I always try to show patients the x-ray or take a picture inside their mouth and put it on the big screen to show them. Being visual myself, I think it’s beneficial for people to see it that way.

What’s the biggest challenge of running your own practice?

It’s really hard making sure that all 10 employees are on the same page and that we’ re a team always. [Employees] can either make the practice or break it. My biggest challenge is just making sure that we’re always moving in the right direction.

How has the pandemic affected your practice?

COVID completely changed our practice. When COVID hit back in March, we had to shut down for two months and that was a big hit on our business. Even when we opened back up again in May, people were scared to come back.

We had to convey to everyone that we’re taking the same precautions as a hospital. We have the same N95 masks, the face shields, the goggles, the gloves and we’re keeping everyone six feet apart and taking their temperatures before they come in. Everyone’s really cautious with gloves and masks and everything — that’s just normal [for dentists].

We’re trying to make people as comfortable as we can with the whole situation, but it was hard to get patients to come back, to tell you the truth. People were scared to go anywhere. 

I’m hoping it gets better. More and more people will be getting vaccinated and we’ll still keep working through it to make sure that when patients come in we’re able to meet their needs.

Tell us a little about how you stay connected to the community.

Previous to the pandemic, we could do a lot more volunteer work. We do anything we can and always try to stay involved in the community. There have been golf tournaments and charity work. We also stay involved in our city council and sponsor a baseball team.

I’ve been doing community work since before dental school. Giving back has always interested me, but now we’re fortunate enough to have what we have, so giving back is really important to me. The whole practice is involved. We do everything together. 

What have your hobbies been like in this past year?

We got a dog during quarantine! He’s a cute little Maltipoo, and he’s that brown cinnamon color like a little teddy bear. His name is Charlie and he’s just been so much fun this whole time. He really lights things up! He just turned one, so he’s still kind of a puppy.

Also, I’m honestly really into 90 Day Fiancé. It’s a reality show and it’s really good. I’ve been binge watching it. There’s so many different seasons, but I’m almost caught up. It’s nice to be away from our reality for a little bit!

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you were first starting your career?

I would say to always try to be confident and just remember to do the right thing. If you always do everything by the book and make sure that you’re doing everything the right way, it will always work out. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, can you tell us about a woman in your life who has inspired you?

My mom always showed me how hard she worked supporting our family and keeping us all together. She showed me that family comes first and that you can work hard and play hard. She’s an engineer who worked for Motorola, and she’s built a lot of our homes and some shopping centers. She even built the house that we grew up in! Lots to look up to there.

What are your goals for the future?

Opening more practices! We’re hoping the next one will be in Arizona. My whole family is still out there, and we’re usually there every other week. My family has always been there supporting me and my husband, too. I’m very grateful for everything I have.

Congratulations to Dr. Rafi on being our Dental Health Partner of the Month! You can learn more about her and her practices on her website and on Facebook.

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