Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Eliminating dental disease in children: U Maryland Early Childhood Caries Conference Highlights Innovations

This is a busy week for DentaQuest. On Monday through Wednesday, we have teams in California at the annual conference of the California Association of Health Plans, where participants are Charting a Path for a Healthier California

Also this Monday through Wednesday, our Foundation is hosting the annual gathering of grantees and partners. They are working through strategies to achieve the ambitious goal of Oral Health 2020: Improving oral health across the lifespan and eliminating dental disease in children.

On Thursday, DentaQuest teams are heading to the University of Maryland School of Dentistry Innovations in the Prevention and Treatment Conference where the focus is eliminating early childhood caries (ECC), a virulent form of cavities that impacts very young children. Rob Compton, DDS, President of the DentaQuest Institute, is joining many other ECC experts; he will be sharing the models of care being developed and tested by the DentaQuest Institute’s ECC Collaborative. Additionally, the DentaQuest Foundation is a supporting sponsor of the conference.

This conference is important because it brings together organizations that have been specifically focused on the challenges of arresting and reversing early childhood caries. We are eager to hear how our colleagues are approaching this challenge.

Early childhood caries, an aggressive form of dental disease in infants and pre-school children, is a significant public health problem, especially among economically disadvantaged children. Children who suffer from ECC are often from low-income families. However, as modern families are stretched in many directions, many middle class families are also facing the challenges of this chronic disease.

The prevalence and spread of dental caries can be prevented or slowed if the disease is caught in the earliest stages. Unfortunately, the disease is often not detected until it is well established. When there is no intervention, the disease progresses until the tooth is destroyed. ECC is painful.  Children have problems eating, delays in speech, and even diminished self-esteem.  If the damage is severe, the child can lose teeth or require extensive surgery which may include root canals and stainless steel crowns. Even after surgery, children often return within a year (23-57 percent return within six-to-24 months) with new disease, in need additional surgery. Surgery treats the symptoms, not the factors contributing to the disease.

In 2008, recognizing an opportunity to tackle ECC using a disease management approach, the DentaQuest Institute, in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital and St. Joseph Health Services and Hospital, launched a pilot that has focused on educating families of at-risk children about dental health and self-management. That work led to the ECC Collaborative, now in Phase III, which has been engaging dentists, pediatricians, oral surgeons, educators and community health workers in developing and testing best practices for managing chronic caries infections in at-risk infants and pre-school children. The Collaborative is focused on reducing new cavitation, reducing pain, and reducing operating room utilization in children ages 0-5.

ECC is serious. DentaQuest is excited to be part of the extraordinary collaborative learning opportunity hosted by the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. This is a public health problem that will certainly benefit from innovation and creative solutions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Charting the Path to a Healthier California

A DentaQuest team is headed west for the California Association of Health Plans’ Annual Conference (October 20–22).  A team from California Dental Network, Inc.*, a DentaQuest company, is joining us at Booth 202. This year’s conference theme, “Charting the Path to a Healthier California” embraces how California’s health insurance market is transitioning to a new landscape as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Within this new environment has come a new consumer focus on health insurance, new regulations, the creation of a state-run health insurance exchange, and the expansion of Medicaid benefits.

It is all good news. Despite a bumpy start, healthcare reform is spurring the customer growth that health plans want to see. Today, millions of Californians have insurance cards that grant them access to quality medical care.  And, there is opportunity for more growth, through dental and vision benefits. 

Analysts at Cigna surveyed 1,847 U.S. residents ages 25 to 64 with an annual household income of at least $25,000 and found 30 percent wished they had dental insurance.  The demand clearly exists.

Dental benefits are a highly effective way for insurance plans to grow market share and improve the overall health of their members while managing costs.

We are looking forward to speaking with health plans about the many ways ancillary benefits should be viewed as a strategy for growth. We have a full suite of products for just about every business portfolio – commercial or government, on or off the Marketplace. And, we are also known for our ability to increase existing dental membership, control costs and improve the quality of service for our clients and their members.

Thanks to efforts led by the legislature and supported by the California Dental Association and many other organizations, including some DentaQuest Foundation grantees, California has set itself apart as a national healthcare leader and supporter of oral health. Recently Governor Jerry Brown approved a budget that included preventive and restorative care and full dentures for adult Medicaid recipients, benefits that had been eliminated in 2009.

As several U.S. Surgeon Generals have said, you can’t have good health without good oral health. We are looking forward to opportunities to work together in 2015.

*California Dental Network is a wholly owned subsidiary of DentaQuest, LLC. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

DentaQuest Foundation Grantees & Partners Commit to Oral Health 2020

This week, the DentaQuest Foundation is welcoming over 160 grantees, partners and friends to our annual grantee gathering in Philadelphia. This year’s theme is “Strengthening the Core: From Network to Social Movement.”

Since 2011, the Foundation, through grants and programmatic direction, has been fostering the growth and development of a national network of individuals and organizations dedicated to improving oral health.  This week’s gathering is an opportunity for members of this growing network to make new connections, celebrate individual and collective successes,  get support in meeting challenges, and become inspired by creative thinking and unexpected viewpoints.

This is also an opportunity for all of us to consider how we will commit to the possibilities of Oral Health 2020 to improve oral health across the lifespan and eliminate dental disease in children.

How will each of us – grantee, partner and friend – contribute to the ambitious targets that we collectively aim to achieve by the end of the decade?
  • 75% of all children reach age 5 without a cavity
  • Oral health is incorporated into the 10 largest school districts in the US
  • A comprehensive adult Medicaid dental benefit is available in 30 states and through Medicare
  • A comprehensive state and national oral health measurement system is developed

A focus will also be on how to elevate oral health equity and health literacy in the expanding work of the network. Meeting the milestones of Oral Health 2020 will bring the greatest benefit to communities that today experience the greatest burden of poor oral health. How can the oral health network help them lift their voices to support changes that deliver new possibilities for oral health for all? 

We have an exciting week ahead. Participants will be sharing their thoughts via twitter, using the hashtag #DQFConnections. Follow along to read all about the accomplishments and goals of our grantees. Attending the conference? Use the hashtag to tell us about it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Dental Download: October 17, 2014

This week we learn about a new genetic risk test for periodontal disease, discuss the role of dentists in pain management and addiction and learn that most kids have poor dental hygiene habits. We also introduced our new blog series, don’t forget to check it out! Join the conversation on Twitter using #FridayDentalDL.

1.     Study: Most kids’ dental hygiene not good: According to a recent Ad Council study, three out of four parents say their kids forget to brush their teeth, but only 22 percent of parents seem to be concerned about it. This is a big problem with kids grazing on sweet and snacks and sugary and acidic drinks throughout the day. The residue sits in their mouths creating opportunities for tooth decay to set in. Juice boxes, energy and sports drinks, soda, and high carb snacks increase the risk of cavities. For tips for pediatric oral health care visit our oral health library.  

2.     ADA 2014: Pain management and addiction – the dentist’s role: Pain management, identification of patients at high risk for substance abuse, and utilizing interventions for drug abusers were the focus of a session at the American Dental Association 2014 annual meeting. According to Patrick Sammon, PhD, professor emeritus from the department of oral health science at the University of  Kentucky College of Dentistry, about one third of every dentist’s patients (37 percent) have a drug problem. Dentists now have an array of drugs to control pain. If a dentist suspects a patient is abusing drugs, he/she should use the SBIRT method: screen patients, use brief intervention, and refer to treatment. Click here for more helpful tips and information.

3.     Athletes’ Teeth May Suffer from high Carb Diets, Sports Drinks and Eating Disorders:  We know that sports drinks partnered with poor oral hygiene can often lead to gum disease; however, a recent study shows that high carb diets can also contribute to cavities. Scientists found that a high carb diet – a  diet heavily based on refined and processed carbohydrate foods – can lead to tooth decay and gingival inflammation. If you’re an athlete, check your risk for gum disease here.  

4.     Genetic risk test for periodontal diseases highlighted during ADA annual meeting: Interleukin Genetics, Inc., Chief Executive Officer Kenneth S. Kornman, DDS, PhD and his colleagues reported on their study which found important new insights into the prevention of periodontal disease and the significant opportunity to improve oral health through a personalized approach to preventive care. The genetic test is performed by dentists during routine exams or cleanings. It measures variations in genes for Interleukin-1 (IL-1), a key mediator of inflammation, and identifies individuals who are at increased risk for moderate to severe periodontal disease.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Teeth is to Brush and Floss Them – Every Day.

We recently tweeted about Sarah Klein’s article in the Huffington Post, Why Falling Asleep Without Brushing Your Teeth is Actually Pretty Darn Gross. That tweet got your attention.

Sarah wrote, “Brushing is important for reasons beyond fresh breath.” Here’s why: brushing disrupts the growth of bacterial plaque on your teeth. When you don’t brush your teeth plaque makes itself at home on your pearly whites. The longer that plaque sits on your teeth, the more likely it is to become harmful.

When the bacteria stays on your teeth, it releases acids that draw minerals out of the tooth’s enamel.  You can even see this happening - white spots on the teeth are a warning sign. If you start to see white spots on your teeth, we recommend you see your dentist as soon possible because the tooth can still be ‘healed’ with fluoride treatments. If you don’t do anything, the acids will continue to eat away at the enamel, and over time, it will collapse, causing a cavity. 

The best thing you can do for your teeth is to brush and floss them twice every day (make sure to brush for 2 minutes each time).  The effectiveness of this simple routine was demonstrated in a study of children in the town of Nexo, Denmark. The experiment was pretty simple: parents and children were told the correct way to brush their teeth (using fluoridated toothpaste) before breakfast and before bedtime. Fluoridated toothpaste was used because fluoride helps harden the enamel, protecting it from the acids. At the start of the experiment, the children in the Nexo study and other children across Denmark had similar rates of cavities (see chart below). Over time, the simple routine of properly brushing twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste made a big difference – a 60 percent improvement in the cavity rate in seven years.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month so now is a great time to adopt a daily plan to brush, floss, rinse, and chew sugar-free gum in order to improve and maintain your best dental health. For more information and best practices visit our Oral Health Library.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

DentaQuest Launches a New Series About Medical Dental Integration

By: Steve Pollock

As we approach open enrollment this fall, millions of American’s will purchase and use health insurance for the first time, and dental management will be a key component of cost reduction strategies.

Between 2008 and 2010, the American healthcare system spent $2.7 billion on the more than 4 million patients who relied on hospital emergency rooms for help with dental conditions, many of which did not require immediate attention and could have been treated in a less costly dentist’s office. This unnecessary expense could be reduce or eliminated with proper dental management.

I am excited to launch my new blog series, an informational series to highlight how ancillary benefits, like dental and vision, are necessary to improve patient experiences,  reduce the cost of care, and help health plans meet the new demands set forth by healthcare reform and increased regulation.
These strategies are especially important as the introduction of healthcare exchanges and the expansion of Medicaid allows many Americans to buy and use insurance for the first time.  Here are just some of the numbers:

As many as 8 million adults will gain dental benefits through Medicaid expansion Health insurance enrollment through the federal and state marketplaces is expected to quadruple to 28 million consumers by 2023. In the first year of health reform, 21 percent of all consumers on the federal exchange purchased stand-alone dental plans.

Oral health affects medical care in countless ways, and there are valuable opportunities for the two areas of healthcare delivery to collaborate more closely for the benefit of providers, patients and healthcare organizations.

The shifting healthcare landscape presents us with a perfect opportunity to explore strategies that will improve the delivery of care in a more efficient way. Below are a few examples of the types of topics I’ll cover in this series:
  • Emergency Room Diversion: Too often, people rely on emergency rooms for dental problems that could be prevented and treated through regular visits to the dentist. At DentaQuest, we understand that preventive dental services mitigate the frequency of emergency room visits and that fewer emergency room visits reduce the cost of healthcare for patients and institutions. I’ll explore the innovative ways we are reducing reliance on emergency rooms, such as the DentaQuest Institute’s Early Childhood Caries (ECC) Collaborative that seeks to reduce dental surgery through education.
  • Medical Dental Integration: Periodontal disease, a type of dental disease, produces inflammation throughout a person’s body, which affects their ability to manage and combat chronic disease.  Aligning medical and dental professionals to provide coordinated care for patients can lead to better disease management and thus reduced costs.
  • Using Ancillary Benefits as a Strategy for Growth: In this changing market, consumers are demanding greater value at reduced costs while regulations are creating even more strain on margins. I will explore the advantages of using dental as a strategy to grow market share and provide great value in your offerings. 
The ACA continues to significantly influence the ways in which today’s consumers purchase, view and seek healthcare services. As a result, we must adjust the way we think about providing and funding healthcare. In that vein, I look forward to engaging in a conversation about how integrating medical and dental benefits can make the healthcare industry more efficient and effective for all of us.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Putting Teeth in Health Literacy Month

Nearly 9 out of 10 adults have difficulty using routine health information according to the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. Increasing health literacy, defined as “the ability for consumers to read, understand and act upon health information,” is an important way to improve the health of Americans. However, this is a lot easier said than done. The healthcare industry is plagued with complex terms and explanations, leaving patients confused and unclear about how to stay healthy. This is especially true when it comes to oral health. Fortunately, October is Health Literacy Month.

Oral health literacy is an important factor in achieving true health literacy. Oral health plays a significant role in overall health and dental disease can affect your quality of life so understanding how to properly care for your teeth and gums is imperative to staying healthy.

The theme of this year’s Health Literacy Month is “Health Literacy Heroes” so we put together a list of tips you can follow to become an oral health literacy hero:

1. Improve communication with your dentist
·         Before you leave for your dentist appointment, make a list of your current medications, write down your questions and bring paper to take notes
·         Ask questions if something is not clear
·         Request written materials in plain language
·         Know your risk factors and if you don’t, have a conversation about it (click here for tips about how to talk to your dentist about risk)

2. Utilize materials that are easy to read, understand and use
·         Health Information Translations provides free access to more than 3,000 health education resources in up to 18 languages
·         Massachusetts Health Quality Partners posts health care quality data in ways the public can understand

3. Visit our Oral health Library, which provides important information written in plain language about adult oral health, pediatric oral health, the relationship between oral health and diabetes, and other general oral health topics. The library is also available in Spanish.

Learn more about Health Literacy Month here