FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Tag: quality care

Why your patients’ blood pressure matters

In addition to your exam findings, do you evaluate your patient’s blood pressure readings? May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, when you can renew focus on the importance of heart health in oral health and total wellness care.

The time you take for a blood pressure reading gives you vital information for your patient’s gum treatment, which may reduce hypertension risk.

The causal link between gum disease and hypertension

A March 2021 research study showed that patients with periodontitis and no other health issues are twice as likely to have elevated blood pressure as those with healthy gums. This may suggest that periodontal bacteria can trigger an inflammatory response that affects blood vessel function and lead to the development of hypertension.

When does blood pressure signal health risks?

A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. You should be concerned if the systolic/diastolic reading falls into one of these categories:

  • Elevated: 120-129 mm Hg and less than 80 mm Hg
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: 130-139 mm Hg or 80-89 mm Hg
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: >140 mm Hg or > 90 mm Hg

Hypertension puts your patients at risk for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the U.S. Nearly half (45%) the adults in the U.S. have hypertension or are taking medication to control it, according to the CDC, and only 24% of them have it under control.

The dangers of gum disease

Gum disease triggers inflammation that thickens the lining of blood vessels. The thickening plaques decrease blood flow, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Patients with healthier gums had lower blood pressure and responded better to medications, compared to those with periodontitis, according to an analysis, published in Hypertension, based on review of medical and dental exam records of more than 3,600 people with high blood pressure. 

What’s more, periodontal therapy can make a difference. Intensive periodontal treatment lowered blood pressure levels (12.67 mm Hg/9.65 mm Hg) in patients over six months, after a four-week intervention, according to a clinical study published in 2017 in the Journal of Periodontology.

How you can educate your patients about high blood pressure

With this in mind, use your blood pressure check as an opportunity to educate your patients. If you notice an elevated reading, discuss the importance of getting blood pressure under control.

And you can explain how keeping gums healthy can contribute to better circulation and heart function through lowering blood pressure.

Your periodontal treatment and advice on daily flossing and brushing regimens take on added value for your patient, in reducing risks from hypertension.

Delta Dental’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation renewed

Delta Dental Insurance Company’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation has been renewed through March 2024.

“Achieving NCQA Credentialing Accreditation demonstrates that Delta Dental Insurance Company has the systems, process and personnel in place to conduct credentialing in accordance with the strictest quality standards,” said Margaret E. O’Kane, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. NCQA’s Credentialing Accreditation is a quality assessment program that focuses on consumer protection and customer service improvement.

NCQA has reviewed and accredited Delta Dental Insurance Company’s Credentialing functions only. For complete details on the scope of this review, visit www.ncqa.org.

DentaQual tells patients how high you score in the stats that matter

Beginning April 2, you can find a new quality rating system in the dentist directory: DentaQual. Here are a few points to help you understand how your DentaQual score helps new patients find you by objectively quantifying what makes you a great dentist.

What is DentaQual?

DentaQual is a ratings system developed by P&R Dental Strategies that showcases the quality of the care you provide to your patients. By providing a comprehensive, uniform metric, DentaQual boosts patients’ trust in your care and confidence in their outcomes. Your DentaQual score appears on your dentist directory listing and is updated monthly.

What makes DentaQual scoring objective?

P&R Dental Strategies is a neutral third-party dental informatics company that is not owned by any insurance carriers. DentaQual ratings are determined using treatment data only. Instead of relying on subjective patient testimonials, DentaQual is based on a statistical analysis of de-identified and aggregated claims data. The metrics that are scored are:

  • Treatment outcomes
  • Commitment to best practices
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Patient retention
  • Treatment recommendations

All scoring is based on standard deviation from the norm, with the “the norm” representing the average level of quality in the dentist’s three-digit ZIP code region and specialty. DentaQual’s data comes from DentaBase, P&R Dental Strategies’ multi-payer, de-identified and aggregated claims database. DentaQual ratings do not include Medicaid claims data.

How can DentaQual help my practice?

Your DentaQual score serves as another resource to attract new patients. Unlike an online review you might find on social media, DentaQual’s objectivity means that the quality of your work as a dentist will be able to speak for itself. When it comes to online reviews, patients often review dentists like they would a restaurant, prioritizing personality and speed of service over quality of care.

Will every dentist in the Delta Dental network have a DentaQual rating?

Ratings will be applied to Delta Dental PPO™ and Delta Dental Premier® dentists in our 15 enterprise states and the District of Columbia. DeltaCare® USA dentists within those geographic areas who also participate in the PPO and Premier networks will also be rated. At this time, DentaQual scores will only be shown on the directory pages for dentists with enough available data to be rated. The data will be refreshed on a monthly basis, so if you don’t currently have a score, you may in the future as more data becomes available.

I’m in a group practice with other dentists and we all share the same patients. Will we have different ratings?

DentaQual scoring is based on claims data from the dentist who performs the treatment through his or her NPI. Because of this, your rating may differ from those of other dentists at the same practice.


If you have more questions about DentaQual or your score, please reach out to P&R Dental Strategies at DentaQual@pandrdental.com. You can also request a copy of your rating summary for reference.

Elevating patient care: A look ahead with Delta Dental’s chief dental officer

Dr. Daniel Croley headshot
Delta Dental Chief Dental Officer Dr. Daniel Croley

When he was receiving a dental cleaning many years ago, Dr. Daniel Croley had a conversation that changed the course of his life and career. At the time, he was a college student with a pre-med major headed toward medical school, but a serious talk with his dentist opened his eyes to a new path.

After shadowing the dentist for a few weeks to learn about his practice, Dr. Croley realized that the profession would be a great fit.

“Throughout my life, I’ve been interested in helping people, and making a meaningful impact,” he said. “I liked the patient interaction, and dentistry’s focus on prevention spoke to me.”

While earning a B.S. degree in zoology and a DMD degree at the University of Kentucky, he gained practical experience working in hospitals, where he “fell in love with patient care” while assisting patients with disabilities or medical conditions requiring stronger oversight.

Today, Dr. Croley serves as Delta Dental’s chief dental officer. In his new role, he builds on his years in private practice to inform his work overseeing Delta Dental’s dentist networks.

From private practice to dental insurance

After earning his DMD, Dr. Croley moved to Chicago and managed two dental practices for eight years. Although he loved the work, he suffered a severe shoulder injury, related to repetitive strain, that caused him to seek care from several specialists.

The risk to his health was too great, and it was an emotional decision to leave practice. He began looking for a new position that would allow him to use his knowledge and skill “in a meaningful way to help people get healthy.”

Dr. Croley worked for seven years for a third-party administration company, which eventually became Humana. He then received a call from PMI, an HMO subsidiary of Delta Dental of California, and he accepted a position to manage its dental networks.

“I found my way to the dental benefit world and it was a fit for sure,” he said. “When I was in practice, I helped one person at a time, and now I could influence many more people through my work overseeing quality delivery of care across many providers.”

Shaping Delta Dental’s care and vision

After a brief period working for the American Dental Association, Dr. Croley began his role as vice president of network development at Delta Dental.

“Having worked for other insurance companies, I knew Delta Dental to be the best in class,” he said, “and this is continually confirmed. This is a great, caring compassionate company.”

As vice president of network development, he emphasized the goal Delta Dental shares with dentists: bringing health to our communities. He described a partnership of trust that supports dentists as business owners, healers and community members.

Improving the quality of dental care

Now, as chief dental officer, Dr. Croley has another goal: improving the quality oral health care that patients receive.

“When you think about what patients want,” he said, “it’s access, affordability and quality.”

While he was serving as director of informatics at the ADA, Dr. Croley made two significant observations: (1) the value of data and using data to inform decision-making, and (2) the shared focus of dentists and dental plans — the patient.

Combining these ideas fits into Dr. Croley’s plans as chief dental officer. Defining quality is the first step in the process, he said, and then identifying objective measurements against expected outcomes.

”We will be building transparency around the quality of care that dentists deliver to patients,” he emphasized.

To do this, Delta Dental will be helping to facilitate dentists’ understanding of what quality is and empower them to achieve it in their interactions with, and services to, patients.

“I believe that our focus on quality, and the transparency of that, both internally and externally, will enhance the patient experience and the quality of care that our customers receive from our providers. This will elevate all of us to take exceptional care of our customers.”

DR. DANIEL CROLEY

Today’s practice challenges for dentists

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on dental practices. As dentists face ever-changing conditions in 2021, Dr. Croley sees planning as a key to the return to pre-COVID-19 patient volumes and practice revenue.

 “COVID has been hard on dentists, and it’s been harder in some states, like California and New York,” he pointed out. “Patient traffic is down in dental offices, both because some people are afraid of catching the virus and so many have lost their jobs.”

However, patient volumes nationally have increased to an estimated 78% of their pre-COVID-19 level, according to an ADA poll taken Dec. 14, 2020. Dentists have applied infection control, sanitization and sterilization measures in their practices all along, Dr. Croley observed. The key, he said, is to “just make sure their patients feel safe to come back into care.  People cannot put off their preventive and restorative dental care.”

In 2020, Delta Dental supported dentists through a temporary compensation increase for certain procedures and facilitated financial assistance through low-cost or no-cost loans.

While the pandemic has increased costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) and caused difficulty with staging and scheduling, Dr. Croley advises dental offices to adjust their business practices to the new conditions, such as changing their hours of operation.

“Dentistry is both a business and a clinical profession,” he said. “We want to help practices remain stable in the market.”

A shared purpose

Through participation in Delta Dental’s networks, which are the largest in the nation, dentists can attract patients, and patients covered under Delta Dental plans can access quality care.

Ultimately, Dr. Croley said, “Delta Dental and dentists share a fundamental purpose: improving health through affordable, quality care.”

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