Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reform Measures for Oral Health

Wrapping up a prolonged national discussion on health care, Congress approved health care reform legislation (H.R. 3590 and H.R. 4872). President Obama signed the Affordable Health Care for America Act into law. During the debate, DentaQuest spoke out to make sure there would be oral health provisions in the final law.

The new law will offer essential dental benefits for children as part of their overall health plan. These covered dental care visits should provide adequate oral care and preventative measures for all children.

All Americans should become better informed about how oral health improves their general wellbeing through programs that educate the public about the importance of oral health. We anticipate more funding for research in dentistry and greater use of proven prevention measures like dental sealants and community water fluoridation.

The reform bill addresses access to dental care with provisions targeted to expanding the number of professionals within the industry. One way is to support minorities who wish to undertake careers in health. The Centers of Excellence (COE) program will enhance recruitment, training, academic performance, and other support; there may be scholarships for disadvantaged students who work in medically underserved areas as primary care providers, and loan repayments for individuals who serve as faculty in eligible institutions through the Health Professions Training for Diversity.

Current dental care providers may become eligible for funding to further their education in the field of dentistry; this means more qualified dentists to treat more individuals who receive coverage via the healthcare reform bill.

Finally, the Affordable Health Care for America Act allows for standalone dental plans, like DentaQuest, to be offered through the new health exchanges. Today, stand alone dental plans provide 97 percent of dental coverage and work to control costs with an emphasis on preventive services. The bill also exempts dental coverage from the premium amounts subjected to the “Cadillac plan” excise tax.

Guest Blog post by Fay Donohue, DentaQuest CEO.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Silent Epidemic: Early Childhood Caries

The DentaQuest Institute recently had the opportunity to participate in the National Initiative for Children’s Health Quality’s (NICHQ) Annual Forum for Improving Children’s Healthcare and Childhood Obesity Congress. NICHQ is a great organization doing important work to make sure all children receive the high quality healthcare they need. Dr. Man Wai Ng, Chief of the Department of Dentistry of Children’s Hospital Boston and I gave a presentation about some interesting work we are doing with Early Childhood Caries.

Early Childhood Caries (ECC) – or aggressive tooth decay in very young children – is something that we should never have to talk about. ECC, like all dental disease, is almost completely preventable. But caregivers need to be aware of the right things to do for their children from the moment the youngster gets his or her first teeth. Preventing ECC is why dentists recommend that children get their first oral health check up around their first birthday, why we recommend brushing a child’s teeth every day, and why dentists advise against giving children bottles of anything other than plain water before a nap or bedtime.

Too many children don’t get the preventive care they need and deserve early in life; too many end up in hospital-based dental clinics where the only solution is to treat the dental disease surgically in the operating room. The numbers of children in this situation are surprisingly large and many must wait in pain for months to get time in the hospital’s operating room. Even after treatment, there is often a high rate of recurrence of the cavities. Early childhood caries is painful to the child, and if untreated, can impact the proper development of permanent teeth. The results are eating and speech problems that limit the child’s ability to grow, to thrive, and to enjoy a normal life.

For the past 18 months, Dr. Man Wai Ng of Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Dan Kane of St. Joseph Hospital for Specialty Care in Providence, and the DentaQuest Institute have been testing a different model for treating ECC. We’ve been using an evidence-based, risk-based disease management approach adapted from the concept of chronic care management of medical conditions. Our emphasis has been on educating the caregiver as a first line of defense in reversing the cycle of the child’s dental disease. I’m happy to say that we have seen some very positive results. Given the success of this initial effort, we are working on plans to further expand this chronic care model and we look forward to partnering with clinical partners across the country on more effective approaches to prevent and manage oral disease in children.

- Guest blog post by Dr. Alex White, Director of Analytics, DentaQuest Institute.