Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best Wishes for Happy Holiday Season and a Healthy New Year

No matter what holiday you celebrate this season, we wish you good oral health.
Happy Holidays from all of us at DentaQuest.

View our video greeting here: DentaQuest Holiday

Friday, December 16, 2011

Better Care for Today; a Better Healthcare System for Tomorrow

Guest blog post by Cindy Hannon, DentaQuest Institute Quality Improvement Manager

I just had an inspiring experience at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) 23rd Annual Forum. Over 6,000 participants (yes 6,000!) converged on Orlando, Florida to focus on quality in healthcare. Over the last year, I have been working with DentaQuest Institute partners on three Quality Improvement projects in dental care – Dental Sealants for Adolescents, Early Childhood Caries (ECC), and Elimination of Dental Disease.

I wanted to attend this year’s IHI Forum because the DentaQuest Institute is gearing up for an exciting 2012 with a strong focus on quality and a prevention-focused, disease management model of care. There is a lot to be learned from the work of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Its successes are lessons in the kind of change management that facilitates improvements within a care system. Time and again, people that I met in sessions and around the conference said they were so happy to have people involved in dentistry at the quality table.

Maureen Bisognano, President and CEO of IHI started the two-day forum reminding us of our purpose -- we are capable of “making better care for today and a better healthcare system for tomorrow.”

With Quality Improvement, we are “acting for the individual but learning for the population.” Stories of patients and their families are important tools: “Stories,” Maureen reminded us “are first personal, then they become public, and then collective, and lastly, they become political.” There is a connecting thread: we help the individual and what we learn supports improvement for others. A compelling patient story helps grab attention today and builds the will for change. Our patient encounters help us understand the situation (patient, disease and environment) and devise better solutions. Data help us make the case to move change through the system. Quality improvement, at its core, is applying reliable new knowledge (science-based evidence) with a goal of better outcomes.

On the plane returning to Massachusetts, I sat in my seat tired but full of energy. Charlie Homer, MD, MPH, President of the National Initiative for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) and a national leader in improving the quality of healthcare for children, was on the same flight. Jane Taylor, EdD, an Improvement Advisor for IHI, was also on the flight. I was just a few rows behind them. It occurred to me –dentistry may be behind medicine in this quality improvement work, but we are all on the same flight, headed for the same destination… better health outcomes. And, I am thinking about the stories we will have to tell.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

To Fill or Not to Fill: That is the Question

By Dr. Doyle Williams, Chief Dental Officer, DentaQuest

Recently, the New York Times published an article, “A Closer Look at Teeth May Mean More Fillings for Dentists,” which discussed microcavities and the different ways dental care providers treat them. A 22 year old college student who had grown up without ever having a cavity visited a dentist while at college and found out she had a cavity – in fact, multiple cavities. Somehow, in just 12 months, she went from perfect oral health to having many cavities. How can that be?

Ever new technologies make it possible for dentists to find very early stage cavities (microcavities) that can’t be seen with X-rays or the naked eye. These technologies are an effective tool in identifying early decay and allowing dentists to address it before it progresses to become a bigger and more painful problem.

The microcavities they detect are abnormalities which can be an indication of the beginnings of tooth decay. For patients who previously had perfect oral health, hearing they may have a number of cavities that need to be filled is a shock. If you are concerned that a diagnosis doesn’t match up with your prior dental history (and there has been no change in your home care or health), it is never a bad idea to get a second opinion.

Today, when dental teams catch disease in an early stage, there are more options for patients than the traditional filling. For example, dentists can watch and wait to see what happens as suggested in the article by Dr. James Bader, a research professor at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.

Another approach is to take preventive steps. The diagnosis of a microcavity may lead a dentist to recommend the application of sealants, a thin plastic coating applied to the teeth to protect them from the bacteria that causes dental disease and the potential for further decay.

Or, a dental health professional may attempt to help “heal” the tooth. At the DentaQuest Oral Health Center, the dental team would take steps to reduce the level of the decay-causing bacteria in the patient’s mouth, and enhance the body’s natural ability to replace minerals. So instead of placing fillings that will need to be replaced in the future, they use other measures to stop early decay, help the tooth heal, and then make it more resistant to future decay. It’s a prevention-focused approach to oral health care.

My colleague, Peter Blanchard, DDS, MBA; Director, Evidence-based Practice, DentaQuest Oral Health Center, wrote an op ed in response to the New York Times article entitled “To fill or not to fill: That is the question” which was published on

Finding cavities early is never a bad idea. It gives us more options to help our patients stay disease free.