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.