Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays from DentaQuest

DentaQuest would like to wish you a happy and safe holiday season!

It has been a great year and we want to thank all of our colleagues and partners for their work to improve the oral health of all in 2013.  We thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of our most popular blog posts this year.

1. Let’s start with our post on dental office safety, which outlined key questions you should ask your dentist to ensure that you are being treated in a safe (and sanitary) environment each time you visit.

2. Probably the biggest news in health care this year was the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Check out why we believe it is so important that pediatric dental was included as 1 of the 10 essential health benefit. All children should have access to dental care as part of maintaining good oral health, so we are committed to working with the dental community and policymakers to ensure that all children have this benefit.

3. Third, we met Dr. John Luther, our new Senior Vice President of Dental Management and Chief Dental Officer at DentaQuest. Our readers loved meeting the new member of our team through his blog post.

4. We also learned about the danger of parents putting their child’s pacifier in their own mouth to clean it, which can transfer harmful bacteria into their child’s mouth and ultimately cause cavities. Early tooth decay can quickly put kids at a lifelong disadvantage.

5. And last, our favorite blog post of the year featured our new infographic, which displays key facts about oral health in America. Did you know that dental disease is five times more common in children than asthma?

We hope you enjoyed following our blog this year and we look forward to bringing you even more informative and engaging posts in 2014. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let’s Keep the Spotlight on Pediatric Dental

By: Fay Donohue
Most of the media coverage around the Affordable Care Act (ACA) recently has focused on the problems with and marketplace websites, so I was happy to read an article in the New York Times this week about pediatric dental benefits. I’ve written before about pediatric dental; Catherine Saint Louis’ New York Times article highlights both why it is so important that all children have access to dental benefits and what steps we need to take to make that a reality.

In the United States, children miss 52 million school hours per year because of dental problems. Dental disease is the most common chronic disease of childhood - five times more common than asthma. The ACA provides an unprecedented opportunity to improve children’s access to dental care. However, the way it is being implemented is creating challenges that may prevent it from achieving that goal. Currently, families purchasing insurance outside of the new marketplaces will be required to purchase pediatric dental benefits. The rules for purchases through the marketplaces do not require you to include dental insurance in your “shopping cart” when you “check out.”

This discrepancy means that if people choose not to buy dental insurance, millions of children may continue to go without necessary dental benefits. This was clearly not the intent of the law. We believe essential benefits should be essential in all circumstances.

The New York Times article also talks about the different ways you can purchase dental benefits through the marketplaces – either through an option that includes or “embeds” your dental benefits in your health insurance plan or as a separate plan from your medical benefits. Ninety-eight percent of Americans with employer-sponsored dental coverage today get their benefits from a standalone plan.

Before the ACA, if your employer didn’t offer dental coverage, it was difficult to shop around for a dental plan on your own. Now, the marketplaces provide a one-stop shop – technical glitches aside – for people to compare plans and purchase dental coverage.

One key point that was not made in the New York Times article is that people are buying dental plans through the marketplaces. In fact, early reports out of some states show that their first marketplace enrollments on 10/1/13 were for dental plans and in at least one state more people are purchasing dental plans than medical!

We think people need choices and that may mean standalone or embedded dental benefits. However, dental benefits embedded in medical plans could expose buyers to a less than generous dental benefit and greater upfront costs for basic services like cleanings, sealants, fluoride, and filings -- especially if it is the only option on the marketplace. It is also important that there be the option of plans that offer adult dental as well as pediatric dental benefits. Selection of plans and benefits is dependent on a person’s unique needs. That’s why there need to be knowledgeable ACA navigators to assist new buyers.

Additionally, there are tax benefits available to families who cannot afford to purchase health insurance. If you qualify for a subsidy, it will first be applied to the cost of the premium for your health plan. Then, if there is money left over, it will be applied to the premium for your dental plan. This formula could leave millions of families unable to afford dental insurance because there will be few, if any, dollars available to cover pediatric dental. The federal government can make a simple adjustment to this formula to ensure that low-income families have the financial assistance they need to purchase high-quality dental coverage. Unfortunately, other important priorities have taken the focus away from pediatric dental health. As the New York Times article states, “kids’ dental shouldn’t be the stepchild of plans the exchanges are offering.”

At DentaQuest, we are committed to working with our colleagues, the federal government, members of Congress, and advocacy organizations to develop short-term and long-term solutions to ensure that all children have access to high-quality, affordable dental care.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Prevention Summit Targets Eradicating Childhood Caries

By Ralph Fuccillo, DentaQuest Chief Mission Officer, President DentaQuest Foundation


As I’ve said many times, the common diseases of the mouth – cavities and gum disease—are nearly completely preventable with education, information and access to care.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Prevention Summit. As a leading national professional dental association, the ADA commands attention. The ADA brought together participants from academia/research, private practice dentistry, philanthropy, dental teams, health promotion, industry, non-dental health care providers, patient advocates, policymakers, insurers and ADA dental societies. I sat with colleagues in philanthropy. Dr. John Luther, DentaQuest’s Chief Dental Officer, joined others involved in financing care. Dr.  Michael Monopoli, Director of Policy and Programs for the DentaQuest Foundation joined the policy table. Dr. Rob Compton, Executive Director of the DentaQuest Institute led a session on How Financing Incentivizes and Reinforces Practice.

Elaine Kuttner of Cambridge Concord Associates led the group through an interactive summit agenda and initiated thoughtful table discussions. Many of us have come to know and respect Elaine for her careful work in guiding common ground conversations at the U.S. National Oral Health Alliance Colloquia. I was also very pleased to see that the DentaQuest Foundation’s Systems Change Approach was one of the prevention frameworks presented for discussion.  After two days, the Summit concluded with all agreeing to some ambitious goals:
  1. Eradicate childhood caries
  2. Emphasize health equity
  3. Apply the chronic disease framework to dental disease
  4. Build community-facing care systems
  5. Redesign prevention
I was particularly inspired by the keynote presentation of Dr. Hayagreeva Rao, PhD, the Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at Stanford University. Professor Rao studies the social and cultural causes of change and the role of social movements as motors of change.  Dr. Rao encouraged participants to consider the motivational dynamics of other movements and how an oral health movement might be shaped.
We are at a crucial movement in oral health. The ACA has inserted prevention and oral health into the national dialogue. People who had not previously had the ability to purchase dental insurance for themselves or their families now can through the exchanges. And the emerging national network of oral health supporters and advocates, many of whom are Foundation grantees and partners, is ready and willing to carry the message of oral health to families, consumers, care givers, policymakers, and legislators.
Following the Summit, there have been many meaningful exchanges among participants regarding the potential and sometimes the frustration in funding ways to make prevention a more central focus of oral health.
For more information on DentaQuest Foundation and DentaQuest Institute, visit

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Diabetes and Your Dental Health

Dr. Linda Vidone, Dental Director, DentaQuest
Did you know that the 26 million people living with diabetes are at an increased risk for gum disease? According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are more susceptible to serious gum disease which can affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month so we’re calling attention to this important correlation.
Researchers have found that people with diabetes are at increased risk for oral health problems, such as gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease) and periodontitis (serious gum disease). Diabetics are typically more vulnerable to bacterial infection and have a diminished ability to fight bacteria once they invade the gums.
Gum disease can make blood sugar levels fluctuate, making it more difficult to control the disease. Diabetics are also more susceptible to other complications from bacterial infections, dry mouth and fungal infections.
All of this underscores the importance of maintaining good oral health and keeping your dentist up to date on your general health.
So what can you do to prevent gum disease and lower your diabetes risk? (1) Make sure you brush and floss properly and see your dentist for regular checkups. (2) If you have diabetes, be sure to control your blood glucose levels. (3) Let your dentist and hygienist know of your condition so they can be ready to meet your needs. has lots of tips on keeping your mouth healthy. also offers a free resource for determining your risk of developing dental disease here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

November 1, 2013 is First Ever National Brush Your Teeth Day

By Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer

This is the perfect time to start a good habit that will last a lifetime: Brush 2 minutes, 2 times a day and every day.

Prevention is what helps us have good oral health vs. poor oral health. The single most important thing that you can do to protect your teeth is to brush for two minutes, twice a day, every day of the week.

And you should start to make this a daily routine from the time your children get their first teeth.
Here are some brushing tips:

Always use a soft toothbrush. Be sure the size of the brush allows you to reach all areas of the mouth. Replace toothbrushes every 3-4 months. Once the bristles get worn out, get a new brush. Replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick.

Try not to let the brushes of family members touch when you store them on the counter or by the sink. You don’t want to spread bacteria from one mouth to another!

Check out this video to see how to teach your children how to brush their teeth.

Babies to 2 years: Gently wipe the baby’s teeth with a clean damp washcloth. For kids under age 2, use a soft toothbrush and a little water; no toothpaste is necessary. Once teeth are cleaned at bedtime, babies should drink only plain water (no juice, milk or soda).

Children, 2 years to 6 years: Help your children brush their teeth. Hold the toothbrush with them and show them how to clean every tooth surface. Help your kids place the toothbrush at an angle against their gums. Make sure they move the brush back and forth, gently, in short strokes. Help them brush the front, back, and top of teeth. Be sure to use fluoride toothpaste. All you need is a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste for kids ages 2-6. Teach them to spit out the toothpaste when they’re done and not swallow it. Teach them to gently brush their tongue to remove germs and freshen breath.

Children, 6 years to thirteen: Once children know how to brush, let them do this on their own, but be sure to supervise to be sure all teeth get cleaned. Be sure to use fluoride toothpaste.The goal is to spend 2 minutes to be sure you brush every tooth -- the front, back, chewing surfaces and sides. Teach your children how to floss between teeth and make this part of the nighttime routine.

Teens and Adults: We are all busy with work, school, sports, family -- but that is no excuse for not brushing. Clean your teeth gently but thoroughly for a full 2 minutes, getting at all surfaces and floss between the teeth before you head off for the day (work or school) and finish the day by brushing to remove leftover food in your mouth. Your goal is to remove food that will decay and cause acids that will attack the tooth’s enamel and also to remove plaque that sticky film of germs that forms on teeth and gums after eating. Plaque that’s not removed by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day can lead to cavities.

Bookmark this website: You’ll find  charts that show how teeth develop from babies to young adults. There are free, two-minute videos featuring notable characters from children’s shows and networks, including Sesame Street and Cartoon Network— that kids can watch while brushing. And parents/caregivers can register their mobile phone and get kids oral health tips via SMS messages. Subscribe by texting “BRUSH” to 30364 or by visiting the homepage of

And remember this: Simple, repetitive tasks will become habit in just 21 days. Start on November 1 and make it your goal to brush 2 minutes, twice a day, every day. You can do this!

DentaQuest will be tweeting encouragement and reminders all month long. Follow us @DentaQuest

Friday, October 25, 2013

Take the Candy, Leave the Cavities

By Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer, DentaQuest

It’s that spooky time of year again.

Halloween is just around the corner and children are counting down the days until they can dress up, knock on doors and load up their candy supply. When it comes to trick-or-treating, the treats can actually be the biggest trick of all.

We want our children to enjoy the scary fun of Halloween, but we don’t want to be paying for it in dental problems down the road. Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay and cavities. After candy is consumed, sugar and plaque lurk in the crevices of your child’s teeth. If this is not removed by careful brushing, bacteria in the mouth will feed on the sugars and turn them into acid which, over time, wears away the protective enamel, making teeth vulnerable to decay.  Tooth decay ultimately leads to cavities.

Parents can help their kids enjoy Halloween by moderating the amount of candy consumed and limiting the amount of time sugar stays in contact with their children’s teeth. Below are a few helpful tricks to preserve you child’s smile this year:

Inspect your children’s Halloween loot before they dive in. Hard candies, like lollipops, can cause chipped teeth, choking, and the promotion of tooth decay, since they sit in the mouth for a long period of time, allowing sugars to completely coat the teeth and mouth.

Avoid sticky candies like gummy fruit snacks. It is hard for saliva to wash away the sticky sugars, so they stay in the crevices of the teeth for long periods of time, creating plaque buildup and eventually cavities. It takes a lot of brushing to rid the mouth of buildup from gummy fruit snacks or caramels.

Look for Halloween treats that can be eaten quickly. Candy like miniature chocolate bars dissolve completely and quickly so the sugar spends less time in your child’s mouth.  
Eat a small serving. It is better for your child to eat a small serving of candy in one sitting than to snack all afternoon. The goal is to minimize the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. Encourage your child to follow consumption of candy with a glass of water and thorough tooth brushing. 

Reducing candy and sugar consumption is good advice year-round, for both children and adults. Make good oral health habits a family activity; brush at least twice a day, floss, and visit your dentist every six months. Don’t forget to follow up meals with a glass of water, which counteracts the effects of sugary foods. This way, cavity-causing sugars won’t stick around on your children’s or your teeth long after Halloween is over.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Giving Back During “Mission Month”

By Fay Donohue, DentaQuest CEO & President

At DentaQuest, we are a mission-driven organization. Everything we do, whether it is processing claims, recruiting dentists, developing plan options, funding grantees, or using scientific research, is directed at improving the oral health of all. To fulfill this mission it is important for us take time and ensure that our actions reflect how deeply committed we are to the people we serve and the places we live and work.

This is why we are calling October “Mission Month” and dedicating the entire month to community service. Over 1,000 DentaQuest employees in Maryland, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts will dedicate thousands of hours to projects in their local communities. We expanded last year’s “Mission Day,” because it was so successful, our employees wanted to spend more time giving back.

I had the chance to kick-off our month-long effort at the Greater Boston Food Bank last week. My team and I inspected and sorted donated food items to be shipped to the 550 Greater Boston Food Bank member agencies. It was fun, incredibly rewarding, and most importantly, we helped feed those most in need.

Other service projects include volunteering at senior living centers, working with Habitat for Humanity, and maintenance work on nature preserves. Take a look at what’s going on all around the country.

I am proud to be part of an enterprise that is working each day to improve oral health and make a real difference in the lives and communities we serve.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Yikes! It’s Getting Expensive to be the Tooth Fairy!

By By Dr. Linda Vidone, Dental Director, DentaQuest

I remember checking under my pillow the morning after I lost a tooth to see what the Tooth Fairy left me.  I received coins (nickels and dimes) for my teeth and maybe a quarter for a big tooth like a molar. Well, times have changed! According to a recent survey by Visa, Inc., the going rate for a lost tooth is now $3.70, which is 42% higher than the $2.60 per tooth rate in 2011.

Can you believe these numbers!? But, 25 cents bought a lot more back then.

Today, I have mixed feelings about the tooth fairy. As a dentist, I don’t like to hear about people losing teeth. In children, teeth play an important role in learning to speak properly and in being able to eat crunchy, healthy foods so they can thrive and grow. And sadly, dentists see children who lose their teeth too early because of advanced dental decay (early childhood caries).

On the other hand, I appreciate that the tooth fairy is about a rite of passage. When children lose teeth as part of the natural growth and development of their mouth, it’s a good thing.

A visit from the tooth fairy is a reminder about encouraging good oral health. The reward doesn’t always have to be money which may be a hardship in some households.  It could be a sticker, a small toy (like a lego piece), a book, or a homemade coupon for quality time with mom or dad.

Use the lost tooth as an opportunity to emphasize the child’s everyday dental routine. Losing a tooth means the child is growing up and it is time to become more responsible for his/her own daily care. Does your child not want to brush and floss? Remind him/her the Tooth Fairy is more generous for healthy baby teeth, than for teeth with cavities.

It is important for parents to have a system that encourages good oral health habits and celebrates a child’s milestones without breaking the family budget. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Coming of Age Without Oral Healthcare

By Fay Donohue, DentaQuest CEO & President

This week, I was honored to speak about the importance of dental care for older Americans at “A State of Decay: Coming of Age without Oral Healthcare.” The day-long event held on September 11 on Capitol Hill was sponsored by Oral Health America and Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait, an initiative of the Dental Trade Alliance. We drew attention to the fact that dental problems are a serious health risk for seniors, and that the difficulties they face in accessing care is too often overlooked.  

With 13 percent of the U.S. population aged 65 and older (approximately 40.3 million people), this increasing number of retiring baby boomers and older adults is an influential and growing demographic with the power to advocate for strong policies that support oral health initiatives for seniors.

Fortunately, thanks to progress in our healthcare system, the baby boomer generation has had better oral health than any previous generation.  Community water fluoridation, fluoride toothpastes and access to insurance as part of employer-sponsored health plans, played an important role in ensuring that this generation will be the first in which a majority will keep and maintain their natural teeth over their entire lifetime. 

However, as older Americans face retirement, they are realizing that they will have to pay largely out of pocket for dental care. This is because the benefits of employer plans end at retirement, and Medicare, the federally-funded health insurance program for the elderly, generally doesn’t cover routine dental procedures, such as cleanings or fillings. And although Medicaid, the government funded health insurance program for low-income families, does fund dental care for low income and disabled elderly in some states, reimbursements are often low, creating limited access to dental professionals.

Lack of access to proper oral health care for seniors is a serious health risk that is almost universally overlooked. It is important to have opportunities like that provided through the Day of Advocacy on Capitol Hill  are critical to spreading awareness about the need to provide oral health care for all, especially as our nation ages. DentaQuest is committed to continue working with our partners and other oral health advocacy leaders to make this vision a reality.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What Mission of Mercy Events Say About Our Oral Health System

By Ralph Fuccillo, DentaQuest Chief Mission Officer 

Free care clinics Missions of Mercy (MOMs) and Dental Action Days (DADs) provide critical dental services to thousands of low-income and underserved adults and children throughout the nation every year. 

The first time I attended one of these types of events was in 2009 at a clinic in rural Virginia. It left a dramatic impression. It is impossible to overstate the desperation and gratitude that I saw that weekend. People had driven thousands of miles to wait overnight to get entry into the clinic. I saw a young man in his 20s who had nearly all his teeth pulled out and he was grateful for it because the pain he was in had been so bad. It was a moment when I fully understood what people mean when they say our healthcare system is broken.

The experience motivated me to become involved as a founding board member of the US National Oral Health Alliance and to help create the DentaQuest Foundation’s multi-year Oral Health 2014 initiative, which is cultivating and supporting local oral health leaders and advocates across the U.S. These initiative and the work of many others throughout the country are focused on changing and improving systems– care, community, policy and financing –that can make (or break) a healthy nation.  

The volume of people seeking emergency dental care at these clinics is a painful reminder that too many are falling through cracks in our health system. These clinics are a red flag that our systems are letting people down. Last year, Dr. Terry Dickinson, founder of the Missions of Mercy Project in Virginia, shared his thoughts about these clinics at a gathering of the U.S. National Oral Health Alliance that resonated with me: 

 “Missions of Mercy has allowed me to get in touch with folks who have really struggled to access dental care. If you look at them in line, it’s like there’s an element of hope missing in their faces. They come in with swelling and bleeding and they live with a pain that few of us could tolerate. Since I started the Missions of Mercy Project in 2000, we have provided over 45,000 patients with well over $20.5 million of free dental care. As much as I love what I do, I hate to have to do it. Missions of Mercy is not the solution; and it’s not right that we have to provide care in this manner. So many have lost their future.”

DentaQuest is proud to be a supporter of MOMs and DADs clinics. We provide donations and send volunteers to many clinics annually. Our team in South Carolina will be supporting an event in North Charleston this weekend. Last month, we volunteered, hosted a snack shack for volunteers and provided oral health supplies (toothbrushes, paste, floss, literature) for patients at Virginia Dental Association Foundation’s Wise MOM event in Wise County, Virginia. We really do care about helping people who live in the communities we serve. 

Dental disease is nearly 100 percent preventable-- when people have access to quality care and prevention. Many do not. That’s the challenge we’re working to overcome. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Most Common Chronic (Preventable) Childhood Disease

By Dr. Rob Compton, Executive Director, DentaQuest Institute

It always surprises people when I tell them that dental disease is the most common chronic illness of childhood—four times more common than asthma. While most people couldn't imagine a 2 year old with a mouthful of cavities, it is a sad reality for many.  Aggressive dental disease in very young children (1-5 years old) is called Early Childhood Caries (ECC). Typically, children with ECC end up in hospital operating rooms for oral surgery (which often involves anesthesia, root canals and stainless steel crowns). This is a very scary experience for such young children and their families. It’s also upsetting for the dentist to have to do oral surgery on babies. 

Early childhood caries is a significant public health problem. It is caused by bacteria in the mouth. 

The standard treatment is to repair the child’s teeth, usually in the operating room. The problem here is that after this aggressive treatment, many children return within a year with new cavities in their mouths and in need of additional surgery. What is happening is that we’re treating the symptoms of the disease but not fixing the root cause. 

To combat this problem and turn the tide on the spread of ECC, the DentaQuest Institute partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital for Specialty Care in Rhode Island in the Early Childhood Caries (ECC) Collaborative. Our goal has been to add a strong dose of preventive education and disease management to the way we treat these young and vulnerable patients before and after surgery. 

As this video shows, we are piloting this new methodology in hospital-based dental clinics and dental safety net dental programs across the U.S. It is exciting to see that this approach is reducing the need for treatment in the operating room and reducing the return of the disease after surgery.  

We are now recruiting for additional dental programs to join Phase III of this Initiative, as we expand the project to up to 30 sites. They will also test the proven clinical protocols, educational materials and practices from the previous phases. If you are a dental program that would like to participate, please contact us for more information.

I’ll close with a word of advice to parents, grandparents and caregivers:  ECC is largely preventable with dental care and education.  Be sure the children in your life get a first dental checkup soon after their teeth start coming in. Your dentist will alert you to the baby’s risk for dental disease and give you tips on what to do to keep the young teeth healthy. 

We have great hope that through the work of our partners in the Early Childhood Caries Collaborative, we will put an end to childhood’s most common chronic illness!

Friday, August 16, 2013

DentaQuest Joins Oral Health America in Webinar Launch of Fall for Smiles Campaign August 21

By Steven J. Pollock, DentaQuest Chief Operating Officer

In preparation for its upcoming Fall for Smiles® campaign, Oral Health America (OHA) is hosting a webinar to introduce dental professionals and others in the dental industry to the campaign and related collateral. The webinar will take place on Aug. 21 at noon CDT.

DentaQuest is proud to sponsor Oral Health America’s Fall for Smiles communications campaign. The webinar is a nice opportunity for those in the dental industry to familiarize themselves with the campaign and all of the materials OHA provides. DentaQuest has supported the Fall for Smiles initiative since its inception.  The campaign encourages Americans to maintain good oral health through brushing and flossing, visiting the dentist regularly, healthy eating, and avoiding tobacco use. Oral Health America has assembled a library of supporting materials from media kits to activities dental professionals can do with their patients. 

The webinar will also include an introduction to the DentaQuest Institute’s new Online Learning Center. The Online Learning Center is a hub of information for dental professionals on prevention and wellness. Professionals can earn certified education units (CEUs) for completing learning modules on prevention and disease management and the effective management of new safety dental programs. 

To participate in the August 21 webinar please register at the Fall for Smiles webpage.

DentaQuest will also participate in Oral Health America’s Fall for Smiles Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill on September 11, 2013 from 5pm-7pm in the Rayburn House Office Building, Gold Room 2168. DentaQuest CEO Fay Donohue will be discussing the challenge of financing oral healthcare for older adults. All who are interested are welcome to attend and can register by e-mailing

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Join DentaQuest & Florida Association of Health Plans For Our Aug. 8 Webinar

We are pleased to partner with Florida Association of Health Plans (FAHP) to host a webinar about "Aligning Business Strategy and Dental Benefits to Meet the Needs of Florida's Healthcare Consumer" on Thursday, August 8 at 10AM EST. 

As major pieces of the Affordable Care Act take effect in January 2014, there will be direct and indirect changes to health plans’ business in Florida- and across the nation.

The ACA, among other provisions, is creating opportunities for many children to access dental coverage in the individual and small group health insurance markets, as well as through the new health insurance marketplaces (exchanges), by making pediatric dental and vision services essential health benefits (EHB). According to the National Association of Dental Plans, an estimated 5.3 million children are expected to obtain dental coverage under the ACA. 

The specific benefits in these markets will be determined at the state level. The focus of health plans today is to comply with the essential health benefits requirements outlined by the ACA. Health insurance issuers, government agencies, employers that sponsor self-insured plans and other persons that provide minimum essential coverage to an individual will also need to meet the new data collection and reporting requirements of the ACA. Through this webinar, DentaQuest will:
  • Explain how dental data analytics go hand-in-hand with value-based healthcare and regulatory compliance
  • Demonstrate how dental management and predictive modeling are essential to success in the exchange environment
  • Clarify how collaborative, patient-centric dental care is vital especially in the context of the ACA Beyond 2014
We hope that you can join our speakers Michele Blackwell, DentaQuest Florida Vice President, and Michael Enright, DentaQuest National Director of Sales and Business Development, on August 8 as they talk about how DentaQuest can help Florida health plans align their business strategy and dental benefits to meet the needs of the Florida’s healthcare consumer. 

To register for the webinar, visit here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Climbing Trend of Dental-Related ER Visits – Especially Among Young Adults

By Dr. John Luther, DentaQuest Chief Dental Officer

A record number of people are heading to hospital emergency rooms (ERs) when they have an urgent dental need, straining the nation’s health care system and increasing health care costs.

While ERs are equipped to provide pain relief and treat dental infection, few hospitals have dentists available to provide definitive dental care. Most of the time, ER staff are only able to provide a temporary fix, providing patients with prescriptions for pain or antibiotics for infection without diagnosing or resolving the underlying dental issue. This leaves the individual vulnerable to returning to the ER with the same problem or perhaps a more severe problem, which ultimately becomes more costly and painful to treat.

This month, the American Dental Association Health Policy Resources Center (HPRC) released findings which conclude that the number of dental-related ER visits in the United States jumped from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2010.

According to HPRC’s research, dental ER visits cost the health care system up to $2 billion annually. HPRC found that the increase in cost is primarily driven by young adults, aged 21 to 34 years old, with inadequate dental coverage. During the last decade, decreases in private dental insurance combined with major reductions in adult dental Medicaid coverage have caused young adult dental-related ER visits to skyrocket from 1.5 percent to 3 percent--higher than any other age group.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), as the HPRC points out, lacks the power to address this rising trend because it does not mandate dental benefits for adults. And, adult dental benefits are not be included in the essential benefit packages that insurance plans will sell through states’ exchanges under the law.

HPRC is calling on policy makers to look at other ways to improve access to dental care for adults, including innovative programs aimed at diverting dental patients from the ERs to community health centers (CHCs) or private dental practices, where they can receive preventive, continuous dental care.

Driven by our mission to improve the oral health of all, DentaQuest supports this approach. We believe that access to prevention-focused dental care is a cost-effective, valuable way to keep health care costs down. Our programs, such as the Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net Initiative, the National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health, and Oral Health 2014, invest in national and community-based actions that engage communities across the country to create conditions for optimal oral health through prevention support and access to oral health care.

In the next decade, I am hopeful that our collaboration with policy makers and other key stakeholders will result in the reversal of this climbing negative trend.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Check Out Our New Infographic

DentaQuest is driven by our mission to improve the oral health of all, to achieve a nation free of dental disease. We strive for a nation where no child suffers from the pain of tooth decay, where adults keep all their teeth for their entire lives and where every person has access to quality dental care.

Although we have seen tremendous improvement in the oral health of Americans, the journey to solving the oral health crisis is far from over. Part of achieving this mission is educating the public about the state of oral health care and access in our nation. As a small part of our efforts, we have created this infographic to spread awareness around oral health.

Did you know:

  • Dental disease (cavities) is the most common chronic disease in children. It is five times more common than asthma.
  • Every year across the United States, children miss 51 million school hours due to dental problems and visits, and adults lose close to 164 million work hours.
  • More than a quarter of all Americans 60 years of age or older have lost all of their teeth.
  • It is estimated that in 2010, Americans spent $106 billion dollars on oral care.
  • About 1 in 4 non-elderly adults have untreated tooth decay. The rate among low-income adults is twice that for adults with more income (41% versus 19%).
  • An estimated 17 million low-income children in America go without dental care each year. This represents about 1 out of every 5 children.
  • More than 64 million Americans have moderate to severe forms of periodontal disease.
  • Dental disease is nearly 100% preventable.

Any of these facts surprise you? Help us spread the word by sharing this infographic on social media. Feel free to give us a shoutout on Twitter using our handle, @DentaQuest, to join and encourage others to join the oral health online conversation.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Partial Caries Removal is Alternative to Traditional Dental Practices

By Dr. John Luther, DentaQuest Chief Dental Officer

Nicknamed the “father of operative dentistry” in the 1990s, Greene Vardiman Black (more commonly known as GV Black) advocated that all dentin, or the tissue that surrounds a tooth, where decay is present should be removed.
However, recently new evidence published in a study in the Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry contradicts this dental tradition. This recent study reveals evidence that partial caries removal may be more beneficial for both the patient and practitioner.

Co-authors Daniel Chan, DMD, a professor and the associate dean of clinical services at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, and William Browning, DDS, a professor in the department of restorative dentistry at the Indiana School of Dentistry, cited several studies that support the belief that the complete removal of all the affected dentin in deep carious lesions leads to pulp exposure, complex and higher-cost treatment, and, possibly, extraction. It also suggests that creating a sealant barrier is just as effective as total removal, but with more advantages. The approach is supported by numerous clinical trials and systematic reviews, which is decidedly rare for operative dental procedures.

This study provides great insight for dentists nationwide. At DentaQuest, we support new innovative research, like the study mentioned above, that challenges and improves overall dental care. We want to help oral health care providers improve their practice to emphasize prevention and disease management. We identify promising strategies for quality improvement and, working with clinical partners, provide technical assistance to accomplish the goal.

We look forward to new research that helps transform the dental industry and ultimately how dental care is delivered.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dentists Adapt to Healthcare Reforms

By: Dr. Rob Compton, DDS, Director of the DentaQuest Institute

I had the opportunity to represent the DentaQuest Institute at the Massachusetts Dental Society’s New England Oral Health Summit recently.

Attended by hundreds of dentists across New England, the Summit focused on upcoming changes to oral health as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and significant cultural shifts in the way health care is delivered. I spoke about the emerging and important role of data analytics in dentistry. 

Among the many questions about changes in the profession, what struck me most were the concerns about the transition from volume-based care to value-based care. In the medical world, this transition began long ago and the ACA is only speeding things up. However, the dental profession is just beginning the transition and without fully understanding what it means, it can be overwhelming.

Healthcare professionals go into the medical field to help patients and the goal is always, first and foremost, to keep patients healthy. But they also need to make a living and run a business. Value-based care is about focusing on costs, quality and, most importantly, outcomes. The goal is to reduce cost strains and reliance on the health care system by keeping patients healthier. The challenge is that under the current system (referred to as fee-for-service), medical professionals are paid each time they provide care to a patient, so if a patient is cared for in a way to prevent further illness, it reduces the need for additional treatment, and doctors and dentists make less money. 

In the new health care delivery model - data analytics is king. A number of models are emerging to help organizations remain financially viable while providing better outcomes for patients. We are seeing hospitals merge into larger coordinated care systems like accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes. Physicians are moving away from private practices and are trending towards employment in a larger system. Global payments are no longer a buzzword or a theory. They are actually happening.

But in dental, this trend is just starting and it needs to move fast. Dentists have every reason to feel uneasy about a transition in payment models that could affect their livelihood. The focus is now on outcomes, rather than easily countable treatments, which requires measurement. Organizations like DentaQuest are developing models to measure preventive treatments and ensure that patients are receiving the high-quality care they deserve – and that dentists are being paid for it. For example, when patients leave the hospital and then are readmitted within 30 days for the same illness, hospitals will now be penalized for not keeping the patient well. The ultimate goal is to encourage hospitals to keep the patient healthy and out of the hospital.

Dentists don’t have the time to sit idly by. Instead, they have a unique opportunity to learn about health care reform and make their voices heard by actively participating in the transition.  Change is coming and as one of the panelists said at the Summit “if you aren’t at the table, you may be on the menu.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Highlights from the Massachusetts Dental Society’s New England Oral Health Summit

By Ralph Fuccillo, DentaQuest Chief Mission Officer and DentaQuest Foundation President

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to participate in the Massachusetts Dental Society’s (MDS) New England Oral Health Summit to educate oral health professionals about the upcoming changes to oral health care delivery as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  I was joined by my colleague, Dr. Robert Compton, DDS, DentaQuest Institute Executive Director.  We were pleased to represent the DentaQuest Foundation and the DentaQuest Institute at the Summit and to collaborate with the MDS Foundation on this important issue.

The Summit encouraged oral health professionals and dentists to work together to ensure that everyone is involved in shaping the future of health care delivery and reform.  An estimated 1 in 5 (about 17 million) children go without dental care each year, but beginning in 2014, individual and small group health plans will offer essential pediatric dental benefits giving access to nearly 27 million children. 

More than 200 oral health professionals from across New England attended the summit to discuss what the oral health community can accomplish together. Participants spent the morning hearing from speakers about the current health care delivery environment and changes due to the ACA. In the afternoon, attendees interacted through panel and group sessions to talk more specifically about changes in how oral health care will be delivered, evaluated and reimbursed.  Participants worked together to develop messages for dental care providers across New England about the future impact of the new health care environment on dental care delivery and how we  must all  be involved.  The more of us that are at the table, the better.

View the video below or click here to learn more.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Say Hello at AHIP Institute2013 and Exchange Conference

Guest post by Michael Enright, National Director of Sales, DentaQuest

Next week, DentaQuest will attend America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute 2013 and Exchange Conference. The conference, which will gather health plans from across the country in Las Vegas, is an opportunity to connect, and collaborate with thousands of health care stakeholders. 

At the AHIP Exchange Conference on June 12, DentaQuest Chief Analytics Officer Shaju Puthussery and DentaQuest Institute Executive Director Dr. Rob Compton will join me in leading a breakfast session called “Aligning Business Strategy and Dental Benefits to Meet the Needs of Today’s Healthcare Consumer.”

This time of healthcare reform has been a challenge for many organizations.  There are critical decisions to be made for 2014, 2015, and beyond.  Their focus is to provide increased value to their members and ensure they are making the necessary adjustments to stay relevant in the changing market.  Our session will set the stage for the opportunities ahead regarding dental and vision benefits. Participants of our session will:

  • Learn how the right dental partner can help grow membership, control costs, and improve health through dental management, data analytics, and preventive programs; 
  • Gain insight into how integrated dental benefits create value for health plans and how data analytics go hand-in-hand with value-based healthcare; and 
  • Leave with a better understanding of why collaborative, patient-centric dental care is vital within the context of the Affordable Care Act. 

We encourage you to stop by our breakfast session and say hello. For attendees also attending the AHIP Institute 2013, please visit us at Booth #458 on June 13.

For specific details about the AHIP Institute2013 and Exchange Conference, visit