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