Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Tag: veterans

Your dental policy brief: The 5 biggest stories as of August 4, 2021

From mask mandates to Medicare promises, it’s been a busy month for dental news and policy updates. Here are the five biggest stories from the past month for you to peruse.

1. Vaccine mandates become a reality for California and VA dentists

Starting August 9, health care workers in California, including dentists and staff, will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or submit to regular tests if unvaccinated. Full compliance is required by August 23. Additionally, on July 26, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that dentists who serve Veterans must get fully vaccinated within eight weeks. The VA mandate covers Title 38 health care personnel, including dentists and other patient-facing workers.

2. The American Dental Association updates its guidelines

On July 13, the American Dental Association updated its pandemic procedures for offices to help fight COVID-19. Hazard assessments are encouraged, pre-appointment screenings are still necessary, and dentists are encouraged to exercise their best judgment when setting a safety plan for their practices.

3. Senate Democrats’ proposed budget would add dental coverage to Medicare

On July 13, Senate Democrats agreed to pursue a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that would add dental coverage to Medicare. Medicare serves almost 63 million members, so this could mean an influx of senior citizen patients if the bill passes.

4. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness deadline coming due

If you received a PPP loan last year, be sure to apply for forgiveness before the next deadline passes you by in September. Under the program’s rules, borrowers who don’t apply for forgiveness within 10 months of the end of the covered period will need to begin making payments to their lender.

5. Department of Health and Human Services bans balance billing

At the beginning of the month, the Department of Health and Human Services prohibited balance billing, effective January 1, 2022. The new rule, “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing; Part I,” applies to dental plans embedded in medical plans, but not to standalone dental.

Join the Community Care Network to serve Veterans

Community Care Network (CCN) is the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) newest network established to consolidate care for Veterans into a single program that offers access to medical, behavior and dental services. Joining this network is an easy way to expand your patient base.

Why should I join CCN?

Beyond the sense of civic pride that comes from serving Veterans, joining CCN is also a fantastic business opportunity that can bring more patients to your office and help you easily manage them.

  • VA shares health information with providers to help ensure proper care coordination.
  • VA staff refer Veterans directly to you and handle scheduling. You won’t have to do marketing or outreach to attract these patients.
  • Payment is handled by Delta Dental, who pays you directly and then invoices VA for reimbursement. You won’t need to worry about late or missing payments.

Where is CCN available?

CCN is available throughout the U.S. Our Delta Dental company has partnered with TriWest Health Care Alliance, which manages two of CCN’s six regions:

  • Region 4: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming
  • Region 5: Alaska

Additionally, Region 6 is expected to be merged with Region 4 later this year. That means the Pacific Islands, Guam, Mariana Islands and American Samoa will become available as well.

How can I join CCN?

Joining is easy. Just email us at for information about joining the Delta Dental Provider Network for CCN.

How can I learn more about CCN?

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to serve Veterans and to grow your practice! Join the Community Care Network today.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Richard L. Owens

Meet Dr. Richard L. Owens, our Dental Health Partner of the Month. Dr. Owens is the owner of Owens Family Dental Care in Destrehan, Louisiana, where he practices with his son Dr. Reid M. Owens.

Dr. Owens served in the U.S. Air Force for several years before graduating from the LSU School of Dentistry. Committed to continuing his dental education, Dr. Owens has received his Mastership Award from the Academy of General Dentistry, which has been achieved by only 2% of U.S. and Canadian dentists.

As a veteran, Dr. Owens believes in serving his community. In 2012, Dr. Owens was commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel Dental Officer in the Louisiana Army National Guard, and currently serves as their State Dental Officer.

Dr. Owens has four children, two grandchildren and two best friends — boxers Bacco and Stella. Let’s learn more.

Why did you decide to become a dentist?

As a student, I became interested in the biological sciences and learning about the mysteries of the human body. During my college career, I was fortunate enough to obtain part-time employment as a medical technologist and meet dental students who also were working part-time in a hospital environment. I became quite interested in the dental profession and made the final decision to pursue this career avenue. I was especially interested in the application of science, artistry, and technology in the dental profession as well as the respect and autonomy that defines this profession.

How long have you been practicing?

I graduated from LSU School of Dentistry back in 1981 and have been practicing dentistry for around 39 years.

What is the most rewarding part of your career?

The most rewarding thing during my career is the relationships that I have been blessed with over the years with my patient families. Most of my patients have been working with me for years, and I’m honored and blessed that each of them definitely knows who their dentist is if asked. On a personal note, the most rewarding was the dental school graduations for my son Dr. Reid Owens and his wife, Dr. Stacey Owens.

One of the funniest stories from the dental office?

The funniest issue I remember is a situation in which I had to barter with a five-year-old patient for her to allow me to restore a couple of carious teeth. We made a deal that if she came in on her next visit and allowed me to treat her, then she was to bring in her nail kit and paint my fingernails. Well, she definitely remembered this, and after her treatment was done, she pulled out her kit and went about painting my nails with three coats of three different colors. Mission accomplished.

What do you consider dentistry’s biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge in dentistry involves the education of children and parents regarding the medical necessity of dental health and dental care, as it’s linked systemically to the overall health of the body. People will always seek out care they want, but not care they need.

As a society, we’ve missed the boat regarding public education regarding dental care. We achieve preventive care for only around 40% of the overall population.

Being involved with the military in Louisiana and personally reviewing charts for around 11,000 Army National Guard soldiers, only 35% of the enlisted soldiers in this state have ever been to a dentist for preventive care and actually have a dental home. Dental diseases and maxillofacial pathologies are rampant in this country today.

What do you do in your free time?

Growing up as a musician — I was a trumpet player in bands — I always enjoy concerts, plays, and the arts. I also greatly enjoy the game of tennis and love going to professional tennis tournaments. Of course, the top of my list involves spending time with my family and grandchildren, and my church brothers and sisters.

We’d like to congratulate Dr. Richard L. Owens and thank him for his service. To find out more about Dr. Owens, visit the Owens Family Dental Care website or Facebook page.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Lori D. Nelson

Meet Dr. Lori D. Nelson, our Dental Health Partner of the Month. A veteran who served her country in the United States Air Force, Dr. Nelson now serves her community both as a dentist and advocate for people with special needs. Let’s learn more.

A native of Albany, New York, Dr. Nelson attended the State University of New York at Albany before graduating as class valedictorian from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 1983. Dr. Nelson completed a residency with the United States Air Force in 1984, then moved to Florida to finish her military career at Patrick Air Force Base. Today, Dr. Nelson is a partner in the Ultimate Smile Design dental practice in Palm Bay, Florida.

One of Dr. Nelson’s specialties is treating people with special needs, an interest she developed while interning at her dental school’s clinic. Dr. Nelson also serves those with special needs outside her practice as a board member of Promise in Brevard, which provides affordable, independent housing for adults with cognitive and physical disabilities.

Why did you decide to become a dentist?

I really wanted to be a dentist after volunteering at the dental clinic of a local hospital where I grew up. I always loved working with my hands and wanted to help others. I was encouraged by the fact that more women were getting into the field and it seemed like a wonderful occupation for someone who wanted to be a wife and mother. I come from a line of business owners and wanted to also own my own business. It seemed like a perfect fit for me!

How long have you been practicing?

I graduated from dental school in 1983. After a residency with the USAF, I opened my practice in 1986. It’s been a joy to spend my life serving patients all these years.

What’s the most rewarding part of your career?

Having been blessed to have a career spanning more than 35 years, I have many fulfilling experiences. Besides helping my patients deal with a variety dental issues, I enjoy learning new things in the practice of dentistry and stimulating my staff by introducing them to improvements in equipment, materials and modalities. I have the pleasure of working with my lovely partner and our associate, thereby mentoring the next generation of dentists.

Can you tell us one of your funniest stories from the dental office?

I think one of the nicest things to be able to do in a day is help someone laugh, especially at the dental office! Laughter is the best medicine, and it reminds us that no matter what’s happening, there’s still love and joy in this world. We’re always sharing with our patients our funny stories of life with our kids and spouses — and hot flashes.

What do you consider dentistry’s biggest challenge?

My initial thought was that dentistry’s biggest challenge is the same as it was all those years ago when I first opened my door: dealing with patients’ fears of treatment and being able to pay for it. However, I wonder if it’s more than that. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with an older patient last week. As we finished scanning his mouth for a new restoration, he said he felt that nothing has changed as much in his lifetime as dentistry. I think he’s right, and keeping up with all that change can be challenging. Invigorating, but challenging!

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy walking the beach, gardening, and reading all sorts of things. I’m blessed to chair the board of a local nonprofit, Promise in Brevard, which serves adults with developmental disabilities by providing housing and employment opportunities, thus giving them the independence they and their families have longed for.

How did your time in the service influence you as a dentist?

I truly enjoyed my time in the service. I was fortunate to have completed my general practice residency at Scott AFB and was then stationed at Patrick AFB. I learned a lot about the sacrifices of our men and women as they serve our country and also the sacrifices of their families. More specifically to dentistry, I learned to do a lot with a little and I learned to appreciate my staff. I began to grasp my entrepreneurial desires and understood I prefer the private practice of dentistry over the military or corporate practice. 

We’d like to take a moment to congratulate Dr. Nelson and thank her for the work she does for her community. To find out more about Dr. Nelson, visit the Ultimate Smile Design website or Facebook page.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Marc A. Cirelli

Meet Dr. Marc A. Cirelli, DMD, our Dental Health Partner of the Month. Dr. Cirelli is a Reno, Nevada-based dentist whose passion for carpentry and home improvement seamlessly blend with a compassionate approach to helping veterans with dental care, free of charge.

Why did you become a dentist?

I majored in biochemistry, Spanish and history while in college. I found that I really liked dealing with people more than laboratory work. I was also fortunate that my parents owned rental properties. I quickly learned how to become proficient in all of the trades with respect to home improvement. I especially liked framing and other areas of carpentry work. It turns out dentistry is a lot like being a carpenter, but there is still an artistic approach to it.

How long have you been practicing dentistry?

I’ve been practicing dentistry since 2007, graduating from Oregon Health and Science University. When I returned to my home state of Nevada, I worked for three years in a public dental clinic, followed by two years as an associate in private practice. I then purchased my dental practice in December 2012.

What are some of the challenges facing dentistry?

Getting people to recognize the importance of oral health and how it affects other systems of the body is one of the greatest challenges facing dentistry today. I like to use the analogy of a person with severe acne. You see the effects it does to your skin, and you want to clear it up, so you go to a dermatologist. With an oral cavity, people aren’t aware of what happens in the mouth, so they don’t see a dentist until they have a toothache.

We take intraoral photos in an effort to educate patients about the importance of regular dental care. This has been a great motivator for better hygiene and preventive treatment.

What do you do in your spare time?

In my free time, I enjoy running, hiking, skiing, target shooting, martial arts and, of course, home improvement projects.

Tell us one of your funniest stories from the dental office.

As every dentist knows, esthetic cases can be the most challenging. You not only have to meet the patient’s desires but those of their significant other.

In one such case, the patient was in the office for a complete maxillary denture. Esthetics were great: The patient liked the shape, size, form and, most importantly, function of the denture. He’d even provided us with a picture from before he lost his teeth.

We ended up meeting the demands of the patient, but his wife had us redo the denture to meet her demands. She wanted him restored into her ideal husband! I still remember going through the wax try-in and he gave me a look that said, “I like the first, but I need to satisfy her, so go with the second!”

What is most rewarding about your career?

Seeing the results of your work and how it changes a person. Our office works with a program called Adopt a Vet. Since most veterans are not eligible for treatment through the VA, we see veterans on a volunteer basis and do all of their treatment at no charge. They come to the office in pain, and some can’t even chew. We get them out of pain and restore their dentition, often completing dentures so that they can smile and enjoy a good meal again. To me, that’s what dentistry is about.

We’d like to take a moment to congratulate Dr. Cirelli and thank him for the work he does for his community.

To find out more about Dr. Cirelli, visit or check out his Facebook page. You can also learn more about the Nevada Adopt a Vet program.

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