Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sneaky, Spooky Snacking- Don’t Get Tricked

By Dr. Linda Vidone, Dental Director, DentaQuest

Halloween is around the corner. Between picking out costumes, jack-o-lantern carving, and stocking up on treats, it’s hard not to get excited.

In the midst of the fun and fantasy, however, it’s important to remember that Halloween is a particularly spooky time for teeth.

Candy, particularly in large amounts, contributes to tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when the sugars in candy and other sweets mix with bacteria in the sticky plaque that constantly forms on teeth to produce acid, which can wear away enamel. Chewy, sticky treats are particularly damaging because not only are they high in sugar, but they stick to teeth and are more difficult for saliva to get rid of them. Often, it takes a gentle scrubbing with a toothbrush to remove the sticky stuff. Hard candies are tough on teeth too because kids tend to suck on them at a leisurely pace for an extended period of time. Think of it as a sugar bath for teeth.

Does this mean children shouldn't eat candy on Halloween? Of course not.
Dentists understand holiday treats are a fact of life, and don’t expect kids to completely avoid candy on Halloween. Here are some simple ways to keep you and your children safe from cavities. 

  • A good, healthy meal prior to trick-or-treating may mean kids are less likely to gorge on candy.
  • Enjoy the candy in moderation. Chocolate dissolves quickly in the mouth and can be eaten easily, decreasing the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. Consider limiting the remainder of the stash, to a piece or two a day-- especially the sticky, gummy, candy corn and chewy choices (and that includes raisins and other sticky fruits). 
  • Be sure to brush your teeth before going to bed. It is important to remove the sugars that can do damage overnight.

I see Halloween as a good opportunity to teach children about making sensible choices and taking care of their teeth. If they eat the candy, encourage them to brush (for two minutes) especially after sugary/starchy/sticky snacks --and don’t forget to floss every day too.

Happy Halloween! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Health Plans: How Reform-Ready Are You?

By Steve Pollock, DentaQuest Chief Operating Officer

The healthcare landscape is changing fast. In little more than a year, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will require pediatric oral services as one of 10 mandatory categories of essential health benefits. This means that 23 million children across the country who currently do not have dental coverage will begin enrolling in oral health plans in 2014.

So what are the implications of this federal mandate on health plans? What components of dental benefit plan design, both front- and back-end do you need? And how do those managing health plans implement these changes?

On Oct. 16, DentaQuest addressed these questions and more when the New York Health Plans Association (NYHPA) hosted a webinar to give its members some perspective on the topic.  Though specific to healthcare reform in New York, the webinar addressed the broad effects of pending ACA mandates and what organizations should be doing now to prepare themselves for 2014.

In New York for example, 2.4 million children are currently without dental coverage and 79,000 are expected to enroll through the state’s health insurance exchange. This is new territory for most plans. However, we are one of the few dental administrators in the nation with experience in an exchange program. Drawing on that experience, the webinar gave New York health plans information to start developing their roadmap for this aspect of healthcare reform and what to look for in a dental partner.

Among plans throughout the country, awareness of the pediatric mandate has risen during the last year from 50% to 75%, and those tasked with managing these plans are starting to make important decisions about expanding the benefits they will offer. Our research shows most health plans view the upcoming changes to healthcare as an opportunity to provide their members with new benefit options and to expand their business.

Via the webinar, participants looked for guidance to assess opportunities in their market, to identify how dental benefits might provide a competitive advantage, and how to conduct an internal assessment to determine whether their current model will support dental benefits. They reviewed the data, asked questions of Dr. Rob Compton, Bob Lynn, and Arlene Saffron, and by the end of the webinar were armed with information to build a strategy for incorporating or expanding their dental program, while also meeting the ACA’s pediatric dental mandate.

We know health plans are feeling regulatory and competitive pressures. But we view the challenges of healthcare reform as a chance to share our insights as a reform-ready partner working across the full spectrum of consumers on and off exchanges, whether group and individual, Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, or the dual-eligible population. Oral health is an essential part of good overall health, and we know the coming year is one of great change – for the better. Are you ready? We are. Let’s talk.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Clicking in to Oral Health

By Steve Pollock, DentaQuest Chief Operating Officer

We’re always looking for better ways to share DentaQuest’s innovations and improvements in oral healthcare. Our latest step forward is DentaQuest’s new website, which integrates DentaQuest’s corporate, government and mid-Atlantic websites and microsites with state-specific information, and more. This streamlined, updated web presence allows DentaQuest to bring concise, accurate oral health information to everyone who works with us: healthcare providers, benefits administrators, clients, members and people interested in good oral health.

We know dental benefits and oral healthcare are complex matters. We also know how vitally important it is to provide the information you need, exactly when you need it. We’ve revamped DentaQuest.com to be an efficient, easy-to-understand road map to better oral healthcare and benefits administration. 

First-rate service. Clear, concise information about oral healthcare management. Educational resources that forward our mission of “Improving the oral health of all.” DentaQuest is working – every hour of every day – to keep these goals at the forefront.

Since the new site was released in August, we’ve already seen visitors to the site increase by 55 percent. We hope the new website continues to bring in new viewers as we keep making improvements to serve you better.

What do you think? Tweet us @DentaQuest.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How Do We Integrate Value into Oral Healthcare to Consistently Improve Health?

By Dr. Rob Compton, Vice President, Business Intelligence, DentaQuest

Energized by the ongoing discussion of healthcare in America, we are witnessing an unprecedented shift in the way we think about care management. 

A particularly hot topic is the definition of value within the context of healthcare. How do we determine that optimal intersection of quality and affordability? And, perhaps most importantly, how do we – whether benefits providers, healthcare professionals, or patients – integrate value into oral healthcare in a way that consistently improves the health of the individual?

We know more care doesn’t necessarily equal better care, and that preventive measures haven’t always received their due. But the old mindset of “drill and fill” is fading fast. The question now becomes: what next? If we have the opportunity to create a new paradigm for oral healthcare, what does that look like and how do we manage it?

This is a challenging time – but one full of opportunities for innovation.

One such innovation is the way we are engaging all as partners in the goal of better health. This new, collaborative approach to oral healthcare rests on a foundation of proactive partnership between dentists, patients, and benefit providers. By offering enhanced benefits for higher-risk patients, data reports and a prevention-focused incentive program for our health care providers, along with educational resources for members, we’re seeing movement to better lifelong oral health.

This approach already is playing a vital role in care management. In a Massachusetts study involving a commercial PPO program, reports were sent to participating PPO dentists that identified patients who were more vulnerable to dental disease. Using these “Patient Prevention” reports, participating dentists were rewarded for their extra efforts to provide those patients with appropriate preventive care. After 12 months, collected data show a significant increase in the percentage of higher-risk patients in the program receiving recommended preventive treatments. 

The chart above shows the one-year results of what I believe is a breakthrough system of care. Children ages 6 to 18 who have had cavities are receiving fluoride treatments at an increase of 30%. Similarly, we’ve seen a 30% increase in the number of adult patients with gum disease who are receiving periodontal cleanings every six months. 

The numbers achieved so far through this collaborative approach focused on quality and value in care embodies our mission of “Improving the oral health of all.” We know dental disease is almost completely preventable, and we’re committed to eradicating it through best practices of prevention and early treatment. I’d invite you to find out more on the DentaQuest website