Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A New Year’s Resolution to Smile About

As 2014 comes to an end and we start making our New Year’s resolutions, once again getting healthy seems to be at the top of everyone’s list. But being healthy isn’t just about working out and eating a nutritious diet; good oral health is imperative to one’s overall health.

The New Year is the perfect time to start practicing good oral habits that will last a lifetime. Prevention helps you maintain a healthy mouth, and the single most important thing that you can do to protect your teeth is to brush for two minutes, twice a day, every day. And don’t forget to floss too. It’s equally as important to add this to your child’s daily routine..

Here are some brushing tips for all ages:

Infants, 3 months to 1 year and children, 1 year 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 with a very small dabble of fluoridated toothpaste. Once teeth are cleaned at bedtime, they should drink only plain water.

Children, 2 years to 6 years: Help your children brush their teeth; hold the toothbrush with them and guide them. Demonstrate how to clean every tooth surface and to gently brush their tongue to remove germs and freshen breath. Use a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste and teach your child to spit out the toothpaste when they’re done. Today there are numerous fun apps that you can download that will make brushing their teeth fun! Check out this video to for more tips on teaching children how to brush their teeth.

Tweens and pre-tweens, 6 years to thirteen: Once your child knows how to brush, let them do so on their own with your supervision. The goal is to spend 2 minutes to ensure they brush every tooth evenly– the front, back, top, and sides. Teach your children how to floss between teeth and instill this as part of their morning and nighttime routine.

Teens and Adults: We are all busy with work, school, sports, and family. However research is showing that poor oral health can exacerbate chronic health problems that people might have once thought were unrelated – such as diabetes and heart disease. Maintaining good oral health can aid in the management of these diseases. Teens and adults should clean they teeth gently but thoroughly for a full 2 minutes before they head out for the day. Finish the day by brushing to remove any leftover food in your mouth and floss between your teeth.

And remember this: Simple, repetitive tasks will become habit in just 21 days. Start on January 1 and make it your goal to brush your teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day, every day. You will have fulfilled one of your resolutions before the second month of 2015! You can do this!

Finally, think about when you last saw an oral health professional. If you haven’t done so in the last six to 12 months, now is a good time to schedule your next visit!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Dental Download: December 12, 2014

This week we discuss why some believe the Affordable Care Act isn’t doing enough for dental plans, learn what South Carolina is doing to improve the oral health of all its citizens, and discover that good healthcare for kids depends on where you live. Don’t forget to check out our new blog series, Why it Matters to Me. Join the conversation on Twitter using #FridayDentalDL.

1. Shortchanged in ACA, dentists hope exchanges can boost coverage: The Affordable Care Act impacts health care providers of all types, but dentists were largely disappointed by its shortcomings in expanding dental coverage. While the ACA deemed dental benefits "essential," requiring insurers to offer dental plans to children up to age 18, the law did not mandate that those plans be purchased, and insurers don't have to offer the same plans for adults. But on the positive side, Dr. Anthony Giamberardino, president of the Massachusetts Dental Society, believes state and federal health care exchanges, the marketplaces where consumers can shop for health and dental insurance, have made people more aware of available dental plans, which could prompt more people to buy coverage.

2. Dental gap: Coverage slips through reform's cracks: Dental care is a peculiar niche of the U.S. healthcare system. Even though teeth and gums are just as much part of the human body as kidneys or elbows, they are insured differently—a lot differently. The question becomes how much the law has done to advance dental care. Not enough, some advocates argue. The Affordable Care Act mandated pediatric dental services as one of the 10 essential health benefits for health plans, but adult dental services were excluded.

3. SC's Healthy Connections program supports oral health: South Carolina's new Medicaid adult dental program emphasizes prevention. That's important because dental problems -- cavities and gum disease – are largely preventable if caught early. We salute the state of South Carolina for the bold steps it has taken to ensure eligible adults have the opportunity for good oral health.

4. How Good Is Healthcare for Kids? Depends on Your ZIP Code: The Department of Health and Human Services has allowed states to choose from a menu of benchmark plans, instead of establishing a federal gold standard for children's health (a decision that runs contrary to the recommendations from the Institute of Medicine). For example, a child with autism or a stuttering problem might fare better or worse depending on where he or she lives. The only way to remedy these problems is for HHS to revise the current essential benefits plan and bar treatment limits and exclusions for children, especially those related to disability or other developmental health conditions.

5. What your teeth are trying to tell you: Statistics show periodontal disease affects over 85 percent of the population. But there's more to your mouth than tooth decay and gum disease. There are some secrets your teeth could be trying to tell you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TennCare Anniversary Highlights Program’s First Year Successes

DentaQuest is marking the one year anniversary of our management of Tennessee’s Medicaid Dental Program, TennCare. We are very pleased to announce that during this first year, we reached or exceeded all benchmarks required by the state of Tennessee.

Our goal with the TennCare dental program was to make it easy for members to visit the dentist and keep their smiles healthy. The importance of establishing good oral health early in life often goes overlooked despite the fact that it is a foundation for lifelong overall health and wellness.

Upon winning the TennCare contract, our first task was to create and manage a dental program that satisfied the needs of members, the state and dentists. We are honored to have the opportunity to work with TennCare Dental Director Dr. James Gillcrist and the dedicated staff of Tennessee’s Medicaid Dental Program in delivering a program that has increased member participation, while significantly reducing program costs. Most importantly, we’re making sure members receive the right care at the right time and in the right amount.

Since October 1, 2014, DentaQuest worked to develop a high-value network from the ground up with a focus on access, quality and efficiency.
  • The current network of 869 dentists ensures that 750,000 Tennessee children eligible for dental benefits receive the highest possible quality of care. 
  • Today, there is 1 dentist for every 857 members. This ratio exceeds Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommended ratio of 1 provider for every 1,500 patients.
  • Members are located 3.4 miles from the closest DentaQuest dentist.
  • The trending dental screening percentage is 90% – surpassing the requirement of 80%.

11 days, 21 hours and 10 hours – That’s the amount of time, on average between the scheduling of an appointment and a member being seen by a provider for routine, urgent care and emergency appointments, respectively.
  • Routine appointments are being scheduled within 11 days. [The benchmark is 21-days]
  • Urgent care appointments are scheduled within 21-hours. [The benchmark is 48 hours]
  • Emergency care appointments are scheduled within 10-hours. [The benchmark is 24 hours]

We are very proud to note that in every instance, we surpassed the required benchmark.

DentaQuest is dedicated to remaining transparent and accountable in our oversight of the program and has released a Report for the Community including findings from TennCare’s November 2014 analysis of the network. Please visit http://www.dentaquest.com/tn/ to download a digital version of the full report. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Why This Matters to Me: Challenges Facing Health Plans

The Affordable Care Act is making great strides in improving America’s access to health insurance; however, this is also creating new challenges for health plans. Below, I’ve outlined some of the pressing challenges health plans are facing and will identify potential solutions in an upcoming post.

Management of the health care of formerly uninsured patients who may have more complicated care needs

The influx of new consumers with difficult to manage conditions is requiring plans to implement population management and look at unique ways to manage the health – and cost – of these patients. It is also important for these patients to have plans that cover preventive oral health care on an ongoing basis, as chronic disease correlates strongly with dental hygiene. The role of dentists in managing chronic disease is explained in my recent blog post here.

On-going costs associated with sustaining and continuously improving new systems

Whether considering introducing a new ancillary line, expanding capacities in a new market, or finding administrative efficiencies, it is important for health plans to evaluate the time, scope and money required. This analysis leads to three potential solutions: build, buy or partner. We’ll dive into the benefits of partnering in my next blog post.

Regulatory pressure is increasing and medical loss ratio (MLR) requirements are placing additional burdens on margins

The Medical Loss Ratio requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% or 85% of premium dollars on medical care and new provisions are imposing tighter limits on health insurance rate increases. Failure to meet these standards triggers a requirement that insurance companies provide a rebate to their customers. As a result, health plans need to find a way to grow their market share without significantly increasing their administrative costs.

The costs associated with the need for investments in advertising and marketing, customer service, and IT and enrollment systems to prepare for the surge in consumer demand.

To capture and manage the influx of new consumers entering the market as a result of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are investing in marketing, advertising and IT, and will have to continue to develop more comprehensive outreach programs.

In addition, the growth is requiring the industry to explore new ways to communicate, interpret and store information, requiring the dedication of resources to test, acquire, and implement the latest technological innovations which likely includes mobile technologies to reach patients wherever they are. 

As members’ financial situations change, the channels by which they access insurance will change as well.

Churn is a term often used to describe people moving back and forth between health insurance plans. For example, people often move between eligibility for Medicaid and eligibility for federal subsidies for private insurance bought on the ACA’s exchanges. Churn in the market increases costs, making it imperative to create products that can be easily managed regardless of how the member accesses benefits. The process puts pressure on already strained health plan administrative resources.

Healthcare has made significant advancements under the ACA; however, we need our systems, regulations and business models to evolve to ensure we can remain as productive and effective as possible.

Interested in learning more about ancillary benefits? Read more here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Dental Download: December 5, 2014

This week we learned that  kids  from lower income families are getting preventive dental care but less treatment, we discussed the importance of South Carolina’s decision to expand its Medicaid adult dental plan, and found out that 100 percent fruit juice does not promote cavities in infant teeth. Don’t forget to check out our new blog series, Why it Matters to Me. Join the conversation on Twitter using #FridayDentalDL.

1. HHS report: Poor kids getting more preventive dental care, less treatment: According to a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), poor children received more preventive dental care but less overall treatment in 2013. All children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP (about 45 million children in 2013) have coverage for dental and oral health services. Despite considerable progress in pediatric oral healthcare in recent years, tooth decay remains one of the most common chronic diseases among children. The rate for preventive dental services increased from 45 percent to 48 percent, compared with 2011, but the rate for dental treatment services decreased slightly from 24 percent to 23 percent in the same period.

2. New study: Pure fruit juice does not promote caries in infant teeth: It is widely believed that unrestricted consumption of acidic beverages, such as juices and soft drinks, can cause dental caries (tooth decay). However, a new study conducted by dental researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, has suggested that consumption of 100 percent fruit juice is not associated with early childhood caries in preschool-age children.

3. APHA 2014: Educating parents about dental care improved kids’ toothbrushing rates: Preventing tooth decay requires more than just regular dental care – it requires active management at home. Researchers from the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and Louisiana State University Shreveport studied the effectiveness of in-depth parental dental education and its influence on their knowledge and dental health practices of their children. The study found that educating parents about oral hygiene does have a positive effect on their children's oral hygiene practices.

4. Matthews: Medicaid’s new dental plan will improve overall health: DentaQuest South Carolina’s dental director, Rebekah Mathews wrote an editorial that was featured in The State. This week South Carolina began its expanded Medicaid adult dental plan. Mathews explains, “South Carolina’s Medicaid adult dental program now emphasizes prevention. That’s important because dental problems — cavities and gum disease — are largely preventable if caught early. Eligible adults can receive up to $750 per fiscal year in dental services to get the restorative care they need and the prevention services they previously lacked. Having dental benefits is a key factor in an individual’s ability to live a healthy, successful life.”

Monday, December 1, 2014

Dental Enrollment Contributes to ACA 1st Year Success

By Steve Pollock, Chief Operating Officer, DentaQuest

The recent reaction to an enrollment reporting mistake made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) undermines one of the often-overlooked successes of the ACA; people now have access to dental coverage and for many, it is for the first time in their lives.

Late last month, the Obama administration acknowledged that it inaccurately reported the total enrollment figure for those in coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) health insurance marketplaces. Bloomberg News reported that the inaccuracy was due to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) including dental plan enrollments in its final tally. Following the Bloomberg report, critics of the ACA railed against the Administration and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell sent out the following via her twitter account:

There is no doubt that data transparency and accuracy is absolutely critical to measuring the impact of the ACA. Critics and supporters of the ACA alike must have accurate information. However, it would be wrong to suggest that dental enrollment through the health insurance marketplaces should not be counted towards painting an accurate picture of what coverage under the ACA looks.
More than one million people selected a dental plan through their federal or state-based marketplace last year. That number is especially significant considering that:
  • Dental coverage is optional for people shopping on the marketplaces (though it was not the intent of the law that it be optional for children) and
  • Most people do not have subsidy dollars to help them pay for dental coverage.

For much too long, access to affordable dental care has been a significant unmet health need in the US. In 2000, the US Surgeon General referred to the state of oral health in America as a silent epidemic. Although many in the oral health community have worked tirelessly to address this oral health crisis, the situation remains dire:
  • Dental disease is the number one chronic illness among children.
  • As a country, we spend more on the treatment of dental disease – which is nearly 100 percent preventable – than we do on the treatment of all cancers combined.
  • Nationwide, we lose 52 million school hours and 164 million work hours each year due to preventable dental disease.

One of the most significant barriers to accessing dental care is cost. Dental coverage significantly reduces the financial barrier to care. The ACA has made significant progress in addressing this barrier by making affordable dental coverage options available to consumers in a new and more accessible way. Just imagine the impact that the marketplaces could have in connecting people to dental coverage if the Administration opened up the option for dental shopping to anyone who needed it – not just those looking for medical coverage.

It is a problem that the reporting of the enrollment reporting snafu cast dental coverage in a negative light. However, we applaud Secretary Burwell’s call for a culture of increased transparency within the agency that she oversees. We need to have clear data on dental coverage as well as medical coverage. It is for this reason that we, along with the dental insurance industry, have asked HHS to provide a more detailed analysis of dental enrollment under the ACA.

Oral health is critical to overall health. We cannot continue to allow oral health to take the back seat in healthcare. This situation has created an opportunity to discuss both the need for greater data accuracy AND the success of the ACA in connecting Americans to dental coverage. It is time to change the discussion.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Responding to Urgent Community Needs

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, we want to recognize some community organizations. Over the year, the DentaQuest Foundation reserves grant funds to respond to urgent equipment and capacity needs at care and prevention organizations. Without this assistance, many of these vital community health organizations might have had to limit what are often invaluable services for targeted communities. Here are some examples:
  • Little City Foundation (Chicago), operating under the umbrella of the Center for Health and Wellness, provides specialized medical and oral health care for children and adults living with autism, intellectual, or developmental disabilities. It is the only on-site facility of its kind in Illinois. Little City Foundation has developed expertise in a desensitization process has been helpful in preparing clients before they receive oral health services. The agency’s dental hygienist has been demonstrating this model to peer agencies, school districts, individuals and families in the greater Chicago metropolitan area, helping more than 350 children a year. A Community Response Fund grant has enabled a part-time hygienist to extend this training to more caregivers, school districts and peer agencies.
  • Bering Omega Community Service’s Oral Health Clinic (Texas) tends to the wellbeing of people affected by HIV/AIDS in Southeastern Texas. In 2013, the clinic cared for 2,500+ indigent and uninsured individuals. A grant from the Community Response Fund assisted with general operating costs so the clinic could continue to nurture and support patients with HIV/AIDS.
  • As a teaching hospital, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center (Cleveland) is providing a new generation of healthcare providers with an excellent medical education and a passion for meeting the healthcare needs of their communities. A Community Response Fund grant supported a residency program for six young dentists, providing exposure to all phases of general dentistry, including anesthesia, internal medicine, general surgery, and emergency service. The Residence program provides comprehensive dental services to a diverse and low-income population. 
  • Elko Family Dental Center (Nevada Health Centers) is the largest resource for primary care for uninsured, underinsured, and geographically isolated people in Nevada —its rural and frontier clinics are often the only places where people can get healthcare without having to travel hundreds of miles. The Centers accept Medicaid and offer a sliding fee scale based on federal poverty levels. The Elko dental office has two dentists and previously only one functioning dental chair. A Community Response Fund grant added a second chair and helped the clinic reduce wait times and serve many more patients.
  • Saban Community Clinic’s Comprehensive Dental Program (Los Angeles) provides oral health services to children and adults at two sites in Los Angeles. Many of Saban’s patients recently became eligible for the Denti-Cal program which added dental coverage for adults effective May, 2014. Anticipating a growing demand for dental services, Saban requested funding from the Community Response Fund to replace aging equipment.
  • The Caring Hands Dental Clinic is recognized as a Minnesota Critical Access Dental Provider and a National Health Service Corp site. Its Mobile Outreach Hygiene Clinics provide x-rays, cleanings, exams, and fluoride treatments to residents of area nursing homes. Providing dental services where the patients live eliminates the stress and possible complications of transportation and has enabled the clinic to reach patients at additional nursing homes. A Community Response Fund grant offset the cost of supplies and travel.
  • When the Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center (Boston) closed in 2013, thousands of patients might have been left without dental care options. Nearby Whittier Street Health Center (Boston) stepped in and has been transitioning RoxComp patients into their departments. The volume of newcomers to Whittier’s dental program resulted in backlogs with patients waiting for months to get a dental appointment. A Community Response Fund grant helped Whittier Street Health Center add dental chairs, expanding capacity, improving operational efficiencies, and increasing access to timely and cost-effective care in a high-need community. 

The oral health community is made richer and stronger because of these community organizations and their efforts. While on the path toward larger-scale systems change with Oral Health 2020, the DentaQuest Foundation will continue to provide essential resources to address urgent community needs of underserved populations.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Dental Download: November 21, 2014

This week we discuss that while Americans are gaining dental coverage, they still aren’t getting treated, we learn that tooth decay is linked to risk of kidney disease, and we discover a toothbrush that makes brushing your teeth fun! Don’t forget to check out our Movember blog post to learn more about the relationship between men’s health and dental health, and our new blog series, Why it Matters to Me. Join the conversation on Twitter using #FridayDentalDL.

1. Financial hurdles remain for dental care: Americans are gaining dental coverage through the Affordable Care Act, but according to the dental community, the health care law isn't doing enough to Medicaid to improve reimbursement rates for the care. According to the American Dental Association, approximately 8.7 million children – and about 800,000 adults – could gain extensive dental coverage through the ACA by 2018. A barrier to access dental care is the lack of private dental offices that accept Medicaid or limit the number of Medicaid patients.

2. Cardiologists have knowledge gaps about perio disease: A new study in the Journal of Dental Hygiene looked at cardiologists' knowledge of the relationship between periodontal disease (tooth decay) and heart disease and found that many were unclear about the cause of periodontal disease. Over the past several years, new evidence has shown links between tooth decay and diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and heart disease. The majority of physicians who participated in the study agreed it is important for cardiologists and periodontists to work together to educate their patients about oral systemic disease risks.

3. An entrepreneur’s vision for dental hygiene: Tooth brushing as an immersive experience: Alex Frommeyer, CEO of Beam Technologies, plans to shake up the world of tooth brushing with the Beam Brush, a platform connecting consumers with their toothbrush, dental goods and services. The electric toothbrush tracks brushing activity through its partnered iOS and Android app. The app collects behavioral data, such as brushing time and movements. It also keeps score for families to compare and share. The updated brush, scheduled to come out December 1, 2014, becomes a remote control for several games, including a horizontal scrolling game with obstacles similar to Mario. This feature allows users to play a game on their app with their tooth brush – engaging them in a mission to brush their teeth for 2 minutes without getting bored.

4. Periodontal disease linked to increased risk of kidney disease: In a study of African-Americans with normal kidney function, those with severe periodontal disease developed chronic kidney disease at four times the rate of those without severe periodontal disease, according to a presentation at the recent American Society of Nephrology meeting in Philadelphia. Researcher Dr. Vanessa Grubbs noted that because periodontal disease is common and can be prevented and treated, targeting it may be an important path towards reducing existing racial and ethnic disparities in chronic and end-stage kidney disease.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DentaQuest at AHIP Health Insurance Exchanges Forum in Phoenix

We know that consumers in all age groups want ancillary health benefits such as dental and vision – benefits they can use. In fact, more than 1.1 million consumers bought a dental plan on the federal Marketplace during last year’s open enrollment period.

Health care reform and insurance marketplaces have changed how our industry operates. But with years of experience on marketplaces – since long before the Affordable Care Act was enacted – DentaQuest was prepared. We’ve developed strategies to turn our industry’s changes into growth opportunities for local and regional health plans nationwide.

With more than 20 million members and networks in 28 states, DentaQuest is one of the nation’s largest dental benefit managers and a strategic business partner to health plans nationwide. We will be at the AHIP Health Insurance Exchanges forum in Phoenix, Arizona, this week from November 18-19. Stop by Table 18 in Salon E and let us show you how to make dental and vision products a profitable part of your exchange offerings (and don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a Martian Victory Smart Watch).

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why This Matters to Me Part 3: Reducing Costs by Controlling Periodontal Disease

By Steve Pollock, Chief Operating Officer, DentaQuest

Chronic diseases are among the most prevalent and costly of health problems in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of all adults—117 million people—have one or more chronic health conditions and the combined cost of heart disease and stroke  in 2010 was estimated to be $315.4 billion. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 25.8 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, and another 7 million are undiagnosed. This resulted in $245B in spending on diabetes patients in 2012 alone. Clearly, uncontrolled chronic disease puts a significant strain on how healthcare dollars are spent.

As health plans try to rein in costs, managing chronic disease has become a major focus.  It’s also why including dental benefits in your health plan offerings can have a significant impact.

What many medical professionals don’t realize is that dental professionals play a significant role in providing the care and tools that can and do help to control chronic disease. There have been a number of studies that demonstrate that when patients with periodontal disease, an extreme form of dental disease, get treated, we see significant drops in the treatment costs for other chronic conditions. The studies also indicate that patients who receive treatment for their periodontal disease are better able to control their other chronic conditions and therefore, have fewer hospital admissions. For example:

  • According to a study from Blue Cross Blue Shield, the average cost of treating diabetes was $1800 less when getting periodontal treatments over 3 years.
  • Columbia University, which looked at claims data from Aetna, found decreased costs of 9% for diabetes patients, 16% for coronary artery disease patients, and 11% for cerebrovascular disease patients who were undergoing periodontal treatments.

To address the relationship between chronic disease and oral health, DentaQuest developed the One Less Worry program to help members control their diabetes through oral care maintenance. Its goals are to:

  • Increase dental access
  • Reduce the incidence of periodontal disease
  • Promote healthy lifestyles for members
  • Provide education to the medical and dental communities to raise awareness of the connection between oral disease and diabetes
  • Integrate medical data with dental data to deliver services and maximize outcomes

We reach our members in two ways. First, we send brochures and postcards directly to members with diabetes. The brochure highlights steps they can take to live a healthier lifestyle, which includes brushing, flossing, and making an appointment to see a dentist. Six months after the initial mailing, we analyze claims data to determine which members have not been to the dentist since they received the brochure. Those members are then sent a postcard reinforcing the importance of scheduling a dental appointment. Twice per year, we compile a report that measures the success of the mailings based on the number of members seeing a dentist before and after the mailing. 

Second, we work with our insurance partners’ case managers, physicians, and community based organizations to encourage them to recommend their diabetic patients see a dentist. These two tactics together will hopefully lead to better patient outcomes.

As the margins continue to compress and insurers look for new ways to manage costs, the plans that think outside the box about unique and effective ways to manage chronic disease will be well positioned for future growth.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Dental Download: November 14, 2014

This week we learn how Colorado is leading the way in oral health, discover how mucus in the mouth fights cavities, and discuss why millions of kids on Medicaid are missing free, preventive exams. Don’t forget to check out our Movember blog post to learn more about the relationship between men’s health and dental health, and our new blog series, Why it Matters to Me. Join the conversation on Twitter using #FridayDentalDL.

1. Colorado leads the way in oral health: In May 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper called oral health "a winnable battle for Colorado" when he signed into law a bipartisan bill that provides dental benefits for low income adults through the state's Medicaid program, beginning in 2014. Until this July, Colorado's Medicaid adult dental benefits were limited to emergency services only, stopping residents from receiving the preventive care they needed to keep their mouths healthy. Now, Medicaid covers preventive care such as cleanings, minor fillings, and x-rays as well as comprehensive services including root canals, crowns, partial dentures, periodontal scaling and root planning. We’re proud of the work in Colorado and excited that residents are on their way to better oral health.

2. How Mucus In Mouth Fight Cavities, Harvard University Study: A recent study released by Harvard University researchers found that salivary mucins, key components of mucus, actively protect teeth from bacteria in the mouth that is a significant contributor to tooth decay. The bacteria attach to teeth and cause them to dissolve, which is a direct cause of tooth decay. The salivary mucins prohibit those bacteria from attaching to teeth.

3. Report: Millions of kids on Medicaid miss free, preventive exams: The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported Thursday that missions of low-income children are missing the free preventive exams and screenings guaranteed by Medicaid. According to the report, 63 percent of children on Medicaid received at least one medical screening in 2013, up from 56 percent in 2006, but still far below the department’s 80 percent goal. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, data collection is an issue for some states, but it doesn’t explain most of the low rates. In addition to the shortage of doctors participating in Medicaid, parents often face transportation and language barriers getting children in for the exams

4. DentaQuest Pediatric, Adult and Family Dental Plans Available on health Insurance Marketplaces: DentaQuest has received certification as a Qualified Health Plan to offer individual and small group stand-alone dental plans on the 2015 Federal Marketplace in the states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and on Maryland Health Connection, the State Marketplace in Maryland. The Open Enrollment period for 2015 coverage begins Saturday, November 15, 2014 and runs through February 15, 2015. For more information about your options click here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

DentaQuest Pediatric, Adult and Family Dental Plans Available on Health Insurance Marketplaces

By: Steve Pollock, DentaQuest Chief Operating Officer

DentaQuest has received certification as a Qualified Health Plan to offer individual and small group stand-alone dental plans on the 2015 Federal Marketplace in the states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and on Maryland Health Connection, the State Marketplace in Maryland.

DentaQuest’s plans offer a high-quality and affordable dental insurance option that fulfills the pediatric dental essential health benefit (EHB) for children. Adult benefit plan designs are also available and range from basic coverage to a more comprehensive plan.

The Open Enrollment period for 2015 coverage begins Saturday, November 15, 2014 and runs through February 15, 2015.

Individuals and families who currently have a dental plan with DentaQuest that they purchased through the health insurance marketplace in 2014 will be renewed in their plan automatically for 2015. They will see no interruption in their benefits and will not have to take any action unless they want to make a change.

Having dental coverage is important for good overall health. Cavities and gum disease are nearly 100 preventable. The Affordable Care Act made sure pediatric dental and vision services are essential benefits. It is important for children to get regular checkups and preventive treatments throughout their childhood and teen years. We look forward to helping families get affordable dental coverage to help their children stay in good health.

DentaQuest administers statewide Medicaid dental benefit programs in Florida, Maryland and Virginia, and the statewide Medicaid and CHIP program in Texas. DentaQuest also administers dental benefits on behalf of several health plans in Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Texas.

Detailed information about DentaQuest’s individual and family dental insurance plans on the Health Insurance Marketplaces can be found at: http://www.dentaquest.com/marketplace/

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Dental Download: November 7, 2014

This week we discuss the link between diabetes and dental care, learn that financial issues are the main reason for delayed oral care, and discover why Americans need to pay more attention to preventive care. Don’t forget to check out our Movember blog post to learn more about the relationship between men’s health and dental health, and our new blog series, Why it Matters to Me. Join the conversation on Twitter using #FridayDentalDL.

1. ADA report: Financial issues are main reason for delayed dental care: Financial factors are often the main reason people delay getting needed dental care, according to a new report for the ADA Health Policy Institute. Furthermore, access to dental care will become more difficult as millions of children and adults gain dental coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The report also found that the percentage of people who needed but could not access dental care fell from 18.2 percent in 2004 to 14.6 percent in 2012.

2. Dental x-rays could be first step in osteoporosis screening: A new study shows panoramic dental x-rays can be used to help identify low skeletal bone mineral density (BMD) in postmenopausal women, which means that screening for spinal osteoporosis could begin in the dentist's office. The study included 316 postmenopausal women who had no symptoms of osteoporosis, however 159 had no history of hysterectomy, oophorectomy or estrogen use, the remaining 157 had one or more of these histories. The study found that dental x-rays were just as effective as questionnaires in identifying those women. Dental x-rays, looking at the shape and width of the jaw, were 87 percent effective in identifying women with spinal osteoporosis.

3. Cigna Dental Insurance Study: Americans Need to Pay More Attention to Preventive Dental Care: According to a recent survey of U.S. consumers, more than one-fourth of adults with dental insurance don’t take full advantage of their preventive care benefits.  Most dental plans cover preventive checkups every six months, yet the study found that people are avoiding getting any care during the year because of a fear of the cost of fear of the dentist. Others say they don’t feel the need to get checked more frequently than once per year because their teeth don’t hurt. However, absence of pain does not mean absence of problems. For more information about why preventive dental visits matter, click here.

4. Dentist Involvement Recommended for Diabetes Care: Dentists are in a unique position to identify patients with diabetes as well as patients already diagnosed  with diabetes who are at increased risk for complications. Researchers found that older people are more likely to visit a dentist than a primary care physician. With the projected rise in chronic diseases, including diabetes, and the growing shortage of primary care physicians, it is important for dental and medical health care providers to work together to tackle this public health issue. For more about the link between oral health and diabetes click here.

5. DentaQuest Foundation Grant Supports Oral health American’s Increased Focus on Older Adult Health and Wellness: Every day 10,000 people retire and only 9.8 percent do so with a dental benefit.  To reshape systems that will impact lifelong oral health and stem the growing crisis facing older Americans when it comes to paying for oral healthcare, the DentaQuest Foundation has awarded Oral Health America (OHA) with a $299,450 grant. This grant will be used to support new initiatives within the Wisdom Tooth Project (WTP), OHA's program that strives to improve access and utilization of care, health literacy and policies that promote oral health equity for those most vulnerable.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Men’s Health Movember 2014

Have you noticed the number of new mustaches and beards emerging during November?  It may be men supporting the Movember movement.

Men across the country are taking action by signing up and shaving down their face on November 1 and growing a mustache for the month, and it’s all in support of men’s health.

In the spirit of Movember, DentaQuest is bringing attention to ways men can support their own health by cultivating a healthy mouth.

Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are important for everyone.  Surveys show that men often neglect their teeth and gums for years and are less likely than women to seek preventive care when they should. In fact, one of the most common factors associated with infrequent dental checkups is just being a guy.

Here are 6 ways men’s mouths can stay out of trouble this month:

1. Regular dental checkups
According to research published in the Journal of Periodontology, women are almost twice as likely as men to have had a regular dental checkup in the past year.  Did you know that dental diseases (cavities and gum disease) are preventable?

2. Take care of your teeth and gums every day
According to the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Dental Association, the average man is less likely to brush his teeth twice a day (49% compared with 56.8% of women), and more likely to develop periodontal (gum) disease.

New research is showing that not taking care of gum disease may put you at greater risk for other chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Gum disease can be managed with daily brushing and flossing, and routine visits to a dental health professional. Men who develop gum disease may be advised to consult with a periodontist, the dentist specially trained in the prevention and treatment of periodontal disease for a treatment plan to manage the disease.

3. Monitor you cardiovascular health
Medications (for heart disease, blood pressure or antidepressants) can slow the flow of saliva, leading to dry mouth.  Saliva is important; it helps clean bacteria and food particles from your teeth. Having a dry mouth increases your risk for cavities and gum disease. And, gum disease puts you at greater risk for complications of other diseases (see #2 above). Your dentist can help you with options for dry mouth.

4. Eliminate tobacco use
If you smoke or chew tobacco, you have a greater risk for periodontal disease and oral cancer (electronic cigarette use is just as dangerous for the mouth as regular cigarettes). Men are affected twice as often as women. The most frequent sites for oral cancer are the tongue, the floor of the mouth and soft palate (‘roof’ of the mouth).

You want to catch and treat any and all cancerous spots in the early stages. Today, dentists check your mouth for oral cancers at every dental visit.  If you do use tobacco, watch for changes in your mouth and call your dentist or doctor if you see something that is out of the ordinary. Be sure to see your dentist regularly for oral cancer screenings.

5. Be cautious when participating in athletics

Serious athletes and weekend warriors who play contact sports like football, soccer and basketball have a greater potential for trauma to the mouth and teeth. If you ride bicycles or motorcycles, wear a helmet. Athletes AND weekend warriors should also be sure to use a mouth guard to protect their teeth from unnecessary mouth injuries. Your dentist can help you pick the best mouth guard for your lifestyle.

6. And, do this every day for a healthy smile:

  • Brush twice daily (for two minutes each time) using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Reach every surface of the tooth, even the ones way in the back, and gently clean between the teeth and the gums.
  • When the bristles on your brush are frayed, buy a new one (every 3 months).
  • Floss daily, it is much more important than you think.
  • Visit your dentist regularly.
  • Avoid opening things with your teeth.

This is all worth the effort. Good oral health has been linked with longevity, and life is better with teeth. Happy Movember!

Image via http://www.wehatecleaning.co.uk