Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Don’t Fear the Dentist (Or Your Kids Will, Too)

Dr. John Luther, DDS, Chief Dental Officer of DentaQuest

A recent study conducted by scientists at the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid highlights the important role that parents play in the transmission of dentist fear in their family. The authors confirmed that the higher the level of dentist fear or anxiety in one family member, the higher the level in the rest of the family.

The study highlights an important notion: Many parents who have had negative experiences at the dentist when they were young do not want to subject their own children to the dentist office; they believe they are protecting their children by keeping them away from the dentist.

This could not be further from the truth! Dentists encourage parents to bring their children in as early as after they have their first tooth-- before there are problems. That way parents can learn about eating in ways that keep teeth healthy, and about proper dental care at home and how to support it as their children grow up. Parents play a very important role in encouraging their children to practice effective oral health habits into adolescence and adulthood – potentially saving them a lifetime of pain and infection.

With dental disease ranked as the most common chronic disease in children, spotting dental disease early in children and making sure they get preventive care are very important. Parents know when their child is okay and when something is not right. Be proactive —make sure dental visits are a part of your child’s routine. Make sure you have a family dentist who knows your child as he or she grows up. Find out if your community has school programs that offer cleanings, fluoride treatments and dental education.

By removing negativity surrounding the dentist for children, parents dramatically lessen the likelihood of dental disease, avoid unnecessary dental emergency room trips and missed school days, and most of all, create a foundation for a lifetime of good health for their child.

Besides, most dentists are really nice people!

Monday, March 18, 2013

What is the Role of Dental Benefits in Healthcare Reform?

By Steve Pollock, DentaQuest Chief Operating Officer

Starting on January 1, 2014, public healthcare exchanges will be required to offer pediatric dental benefits to individuals and small groups, meaning as many as 20 million children will have new benefit plans and, consequently, better access to important dental care—many for the first time in their lives. 

At DentaQuest, we think this is great. The oral health of our children is an important, far-reaching issue, and one that hasn’t always gotten the attention it should. Consider this: dental disease is the most common chronic disease among children – five times more common than asthma. Children lose 52 million school hours each year because of dental disease. Poor oral health can affect nutrition, speech development, and learning during critical developmental years, putting many children at a serious disadvantage for life. None of this should be the case, because dental disease is almost 100% preventable.

The details of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) can be confusing, to say the least, and many aspects of the new law are still being defined. DentaQuest has been monitoring healthcare reform closely, and developed these questions and answers to help keep you informed of how the law impacts dental coverage. Here are some basics that you should know. 

Q: Is dental coverage an essential benefit?
A: There are ten essential benefits. Pediatric dental and vision coverage is one of the ten.

Q: How is pediatric defined?
A: The ACA defines “pediatric” as up to 19 years of age. At DentaQuest, we cannot stress enough the importance of including child-specific services in the essential health benefits package. This is a crucial step toward improving lifelong oral health.

Q: What is covered by the pediatric dental benefit?
A: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gives states two options for defining the pediatric component of the essential health benefit. Pediatric dental benefits can mirror (a) those offered through the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or (b) those offered through the largest Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP).  Today, both of these programs cover dental visits for children including preventive services such as routine dental exams, x-rays, sealants, fluoride varnish treatments, restorative services such as fillings, and other necessary dental services. 

Q: What about adults?
A: Adult dental coverage is not one of the ten essential health benefits mandated in ACA. If your current health plan doesn’t offer dental benefits, you have the option of buying a dental plan separately. 

Q: What is “the exchange”?
A: Healthcare exchanges are new virtual marketplaces where consumers can go to shop for and compare qualified health plans and qualified dental plans. All plans offered on a public exchange must offer the essential health benefits outlined by the ACA. Exchanges ensure that pediatric dental and vision care are offered to anyone purchasing benefits, thereby expanding access to dental care for all eligible children.

Q: When will people sign up for benefits through exchanges?
A: Open enrollment is scheduled to begin in October 2013, with new members coming on board on January 1, 2014. 

DentaQuest’s in-house healthcare reform and government relations staff members are closely monitoring developments related to the ACA. Watch this blog for updates on new details as we learn them.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Swish Away Dental Decay

By Dr. Linda Vidone, Dental Director of DentaQuest

Tubes of toothpaste, toothbrushes and dental floss have long been considered the tools for keeping your pearly whites healthy and clean. But more often than not, many of us forget a key component in keeping our teeth in tip top shape: mouthrinse. Mouthrinse, also known as mouthwash, is a tool that has often been considered a cosmetic item, its purpose to freshen your breath and leave you with a clean feeling.

However, there is a new version of mouthwash currently on the market called the therapeutic mouthrinse. Therapeutic mouthrinse has two key components that separate it from other mouthwashes. It is composed of fluoride and antimicrobial agents which play a big role in keeping your chompers strong and healthy. The fluoride fights cavities and prevents decaying, and the anti-microbial agents help gingivitis and plaque to the curb.

Although it may seem like a do-it-all product, mouthrinse is not a substitute for flossing or brushing your teeth twice a day; however, it can be a useful addition to your daily oral hygiene routine.

You might be wondering what the difference is between cosmetic mouthrinse and therapeutic mouthrinse. Cosmetic mouthrinses may temporarily reduce or control bad breath; however, they do not reduced cavities, gingivitis or plaque. On the other hand, fluoride and antimicrobial agents in therapeutic mouthrinses may help reduce cavities, gingivitis, plaque and bad breath in children and adults of all ages.

By removing the plaque that is left behind after brushing and flossing, therapeutic mouthrinses helps prevent gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, and periodontitis, a type of advanced gum disease. This was seen in a recent study released by the Academy of General Dentistry, which found greater declines in both plaque and gingivitis among people using therapeutic germ-killing mouthrinse than among those using placebo mouthrinses.

Plaque declined 26 percent among those using the antiseptic mouthwash than among those using a placebo mouthrinse. Among testers whose teeth had plaque problems at the start of the study, 51 percent of those who cleaned with the antiseptic mouthrinse had less plaque at the end of the study compared to 12 percent of those who cleaned with the placebo mouthrinse. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of people using the antiseptic mouthrinse showed measurable improvement in gingivitis compared to only 30 percent of the others.

Interested? During your next exam, talk to your oral health professional about adding a mouthrinse to your daily routine. Happy Swishing!

Study Source: January/February issue of General Dentistry (