Friday, January 28, 2011

Best Practice Management Consultant, 2011

My colleague, Safety Net Solutions founder and DentaQuest Institute Executive Director Mark Doherty, DMD, MPH, CCHP was recognized as Best Practice Management Consultant in Dr.Bicuspid’s 2011 Dental Excellence Awards. Dr. Doherty is a passionate advocate for oral health, and has a strong background in public health dentistry. Under his direction, the DentaQuest Institute’s Safety Net Solutions program has helped strengthen many dental clinics in communities across the country.

The Safety Net Solutions program is unique among dental management consultants because it is focused on the urgent need to preserve and strengthen the oral health safety net which serves 16 million+ uninsured and medically underserved Americans every day. Oral health safety net providers are the dentists who work at your local community health center. They are critical to good individual and community health. But they are very challenged by poor reimbursement, operational difficulties, and limited resources. Historically, these programs struggle to maintain financial viability.

The DentaQuest Institute’s Safety Net Solutions (SNS) program works collaboratively with program administrators, dental directors, and staff. Its advisors provide customized technical assistance to enhance the business infrastructure behind the delivery of care—with an appreciation for the uniqueness of safety net clients and their care needs. The SNS Improvement Model is especially helpful for programs in environments with low levels of public reimbursement because it teaches programs to operate more efficiently. Many public and private funders of safety net sites have started including Safety Net Solutions technical assistance in their plans to ensure that grantees implement sustainable, results-oriented business practices, and develop access metrics that deliver a return on the investment.

Since the program began in 2006, SNS has worked with more than 90 safety net dental programs in 19 states. And they are now advising the growing number of community health centers that are starting new or expanding existing dental programs, using critical resources mandated in health reform.

Safety Net Solutions is making a difference. Within one year of receiving SNS technical assistance, a dental care safety net program is stronger.

Overall, through technical assistance, sites experienced on average…
· 35,063 more dental visits in the past year
· An increase of 1,594 visits
· Gross productivity increased by $752,006
· Net revenue of dental services increased by $5,475,937

The Dr.Bicuspid award is a well-deserved recognition of Mark’s hard work and the DentaQuest Institute’s leadership in strengthening America’s dental safety net and innovating improvements to the care delivery system.
Learn more about the Safety Net Solutions program at

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Cost of Treating a Preventable Disease

This is pretty interesting stuff. Dental expenditures in 2007 (latest available) equaled the cost of treating cardiovascular disease. It is more than twice as much as was spent for diabetes or normal maternity. And it is mostly caused by a little bacteria that can be prevented!
Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey 2007, AHRQ, US Dept of Health and Human Services

Friday, January 14, 2011

Community Water Fluoridation Rules Change

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first changes in the recommended amount of fluoride for public drinking water supplies in nearly 50 years.

Public health officials and professional dentistry believe that water fluoridation and fluoride toothpaste are largely responsible for the decline in tooth decay in the U.S. over the past several decades.

The new guidelines set a balance where people will be able to get tooth decay prevention benefits while avoiding unwanted health effects from too much fluoride. Consuming too much fluoride during the years when teeth are forming (8 years old and younger) may lead to a condition called dental fluorosis where light white markings or spots become visible on the tooth’s enamel.

Over the last 50 years, Americans have access to more sources of fluoride than they did when water fluoridation was first introduced in the 1940s. Water is just one of several sources which also include toothpastes and mouth rinses, prescription fluoride supplements, and fluoride applied by dental professionals.

Read the full press release at

Friday, January 7, 2011

How to Prevent the Gift of Cavities

Caregivers need to watch their mouths around children. I’m not talking about what they say—I’m talking about what they spread (cavities).

Most people don’t know that very young children can “catch” the bacteria that causes cavities. But they can.

Cavities (caries) are a bacterial infection. Now here’s a really interesting fact: babies most often get this bacteria from family members. How does a child get the bacteria? Most likely, it is through some form of exchange of saliva from an adult or another child in their lives.

Think about how this can happen. It can be through something as harmless as sharing a spoon, ‘cleaning’ the pacifier that fell on the floor in your mouth before returning it to the child, or biting off a piece of apple to share with a child. The bacteria in the adult’s mouth just found a pathway to the child.

Once in the child’s mouth, the cavity-causing bacteria cling to the surfaces of the teeth like a film. Your dentist calls this biofilm. Acids in the bacteria eat away at the enamel (the hard coating of the tooth), and can cause white spots. If you see these, they are early signs of cavities. Call your dentist! Untreated, the next step is a cavity (hole) in the enamel. If the infection is caught early, your dentist can remineralize and ‘heal’ the tooth—no drilling involved! This is most often done with a high concentration of fluoride.

Once cavity causing bacteria are in a child’s mouth, they are there for life. Caregivers have to be on top of what goes into the child’s mouth. Watch out for:

- Sugars and acids in foods and drinks – they encourage the cavity-causing bacteria to multiply. Did you know that the milk in a baby’s bottle contains sugars? Or that fruit juices, soda, sports and energy drinks are full of sugars and acids too? Starting when the child is an infant, wipe the inside of a baby’s mouth with a soft wash cloth after eating to reduce the acid attacks on the teeth.

- Be sure to only give water to baby at bedtime or naptime. Putting a child to bed with milk, juice or soda (all sugary and/or acidic drinks) is just feeding the bacteria and encouraging the start of cavities.

- Clean the child’s teeth every day. If the child is too young to brush his or her own teeth, wipe the teeth with a soft, clean, damp washcloth. As the child is able to cooperate, you can brush the teeth using a pea-sized dot of fluoride toothpaste. Once a child is 4 or 5, he or she can brush on his/her own with parental supervision. (Be sure the child spits out and does not swallow the toothpaste.) It is important to remove food from all the surfaces of the teeth every day so the bacteria can’t settle in and start the decay process.

Untreated, tooth decay can have serious, negative effects on a child’s physical and educational development. Mouth pain makes it difficult to eat a healthy diet, to learn to speak properly, and to concentrate in school. Untreated tooth decay in baby teeth can damage a child’s permanent teeth. Plain and simple, early tooth decay can quickly put kids at a lifelong disadvantage.

What can parents do? Taking care of your teeth improves your own oral health, and sets a good example for your child to follow. Make sure you visit your dentist regularly. Take your child for a first check-up at twelve months of age. The dentist will determine the child’s risk of developing dental disease. Follow a healthy diet and be sure to brush after every meal.

Taking care to reduce the risk of transmitting cavity-causing bacteria to children will better position them to fight off tooth decay as they grow.