As the Great Resignation reaches dentistry, it may exacerbate existing access-to-care problems — possibly leading to declining oral health, more dental emergencies, and even an increase in heart disease and other serious health problems.
A July report by the ADA’s Health Policy Institute found that 74% of private practice dentists say that it is currently “extremely challenging” to recruit qualified dental hygienists, and another 19% say it is “very challenging.” Similarly, 84% of dentists say it is extremely or very challenging to recruit dental assistants. We recently looked at ways that practice owners can retain their knowledgeable staff who have built relationships with patients.
However, dentistry is also seeing another side of the Great Resignation: many older dentists are accelerating their retirement plans.
At ADA Practice Transitions, we’re seeing another trend: young dentists are embracing the opportunity to step into established practices and take proactive steps to retain hardworking staff. In many cases, these dentists can tap into programs, such as the National Health Service Corps, that forgive student loans for dentists providing care in underserved communities.
On behalf of its members, the California Dental Association has filed a legal action against Delta Dental of California in San Francisco Superior Court.
The legal action challenges Delta Dental’s adjustments to Premier and PPO provider agreements effective Jan.1, 2023, which include significant fee reductions for many providers, increased administrative burdens and diminished value of benefit plans. CDA alleges that the board of directors of Delta Dental, a nonprofit, tax-exempt company, violated its fiduciary duties by, among other things, failing to conduct appropriate analysis of the need for and impact of the contract changes to Delta Dental’s provider networks and patients.
“CDA is committed to supporting our members in their practices and ensuring the patients we serve can access dental care,” said CDA president John Blake, DDS. “As a dental benefit plan company, Delta Dental has a responsibility to be transparent about such significant changes that affect its provider networks and their patients. CDA believes that Delta Dental failed to adequately consider the basis for and impact of these changes and has failed to offer sufficient justification for these actions.”
CDA previously sought clarification from Delta Dental on the methodologies used to justify the significant contractual amendments and reimbursement changes, including 20-40% rate reductions for most periodontists, endodontists and oral surgeons. Delta Dental, however, has stated that it would not provide any additional information, claiming that it is confidential and proprietary.
“Challenges with dental benefit plans are a top concern for CDA members as we are keenly aware that current dental benefit structures are not working for patients or dentists,” said Dr. Blake. “This litigation is a step toward increasing transparency and accountability. Significant work must be done to develop quality, standardized and meaningful dental benefit plan requirements that meet the oral health care needs of Californians.”
In 2018, CDA and Delta Dental of California reached a $65 million settlement agreement on behalf of Premier providers who had their fees reduced improperly by Delta Dental’s “inflationary adjustment percentage,” resulting in payments ranging from $500 to many thousands of dollars for 14,000 dentists. In the settlement, CDA also secured 120 days’ written notice of material changes to participating dentist agreements to all contracted Delta Dental providers and an individualized illustration of how those reductions would potentially affect the dentist’s practice.
By Jess Giebel, professional education manage, OraPharma
Dental hygienists often act as the first line of defense in addressing oral care issues, providing patients with education, and flagging problems like cavities or periodontitis—the latter being the number one cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S. Taking a closer look at overall health is critical to catching and treating periodontitis early and properly.
Though they serve as the day-to-day support for patients in the management of oral health, many think the role of dental hygienists is focused only on cleaning teeth (itself an important part of oral health); in reality, the role of a dental hygienist is much more comprehensive. As the industry has shifted over the last couple of decades, gone are the days of merely getting a patient in, cleaning their teeth, and getting them out.
Today’s dental hygienist role has evolved to looking closely at overall health to assess and diagnose correctly is of utmost importance, ensuring that teeth are preserved and that patients are getting the best healthcare possible. Considering that oral care is important to everyone’s health – from the young to the old, the steady stream of patients never ceases. Consequently, dental hygienists are not immune to burnout.
The COVID-19 Toll
Yet, like many professions across the health care industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to mental health challenges and burnout for many dental hygienists. In fact, a 2020 survey published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene found that 8% of dental hygienists left the workforce since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, a 2019 survey of dental hygienists found that 43% cited not feeling valued or respected as a primary reason they would seek a new job within the next year. Addressing burnout and providing additional support is key to retaining dental hygienists within the profession.
One important way to make sure that dental hygienists are supported is simple—by making sure they are heard, valued, and respected. When looking at different resources that a practice offers, what’s important to one may differ from another, but ultimately these three values are essential across the board. Seeing patients back-to-back, being on your feet all day, and working to assess oral health issues can be exhausting.
Ensuring that practice owners are supporting their staff by prioritizing work/life balance, giving enough breaks, and providing professional and personal support is monumental during this time. Not getting enough support at your practice? The American Dental Association (ADA) offers many resources to help with physical and mental wellness, including videos, articles and podcasts on topics such as stress reduction and navigating anxiety.
Pearl, the global leader in dental AI solutions, announced today that TIME has named its Second Opinion software to its Best Inventions of 2022 list as a special mention. This year’s special mentions list featured 50 inventions recognized for their unique impact and transformational capabilities.
Evaluated by an esteemed panel of TIME editors, the publication’s Best Inventions list honors the innovations across all industries that deliver groundbreaking impact and influence on consumers, the industry, and society at large.
“Impactful innovation is core to our mission at Pearl and this recognition from TIME is a testament to our progress in pursuit of that mission,” said Ophir Tanz, founder and CEO of Pearl. “It is also rare to see a dental technology garner popular interest, so for a widely read and respected publication like TIME to single-out Second Opinion for a list of premier inventions is a particularly special honor.”
Earlier this year, Second Opinion became the first-and-only chairside AI radiologic aid authorized by the FDA to read both bitewing and periapical x-rays of adult teeth in patients as young as 12 years old. The AI delivers its findings in real-time for patient-facing display in the dental operatory, helping dentists ensure the accuracy of their x-ray evaluations and enabling them to better communicate diagnoses to patients.
Click here to read about Second Opinion on this year’s TIME Best Inventions list.
Dentists and all other types of healthcare providers who operate one or more offices as a business will reach a point when it’s time to make a career transition. It could be because a dentist with a solo practice wants to sell the business and retire. Or maybe a dentist wants to expand into new locations, join a dental group through a merger or acquisition deal or sell the practice to a dental service organization (DSO).
In every case, the actions the dentist takes prior to the transition will ultimately affect the outcome by creating or losing practice value. The value of a dental practice is always in motion; it is either gaining or declining in value, never static. So, to enter a transition period in a position of financial strength, dentists need to identify a practice transition timeline and maximize practice value at the right time. Here are some factors to consider to build value.
Optimize Your Practice With Greater Productivity
Increasing practice productivity is one way to add value, and there are two ways to do it: Welcome new patients to the practice or offer more services to existing patients. Whether you intend to scale up by expanding to new locations or are looking to improve practice value, it’s critical to optimize efficiency at your current location before taking any other steps. Your choices for optimization will depend to some extent on your current physical facility.
Your location’s size, layout and diagnosis infrastructure like CAD/CAM, lasers, radiography, etc., are relevant because in theory, a practice that focuses mainly on preventive dentistry needs two full-time hygienists to drive demand for restorative work. In a solo practice, five operatories are ideal because they allow the dentist and hygienists to take care of scheduled patients and have room to manage emergencies, overflow whitening, walk-ins, etc.
The average facility varies by region, but generally speaking, if you add professionals (dentists or hygienists), you must have the infrastructure in place to support their work. If that’s not possible in your current location, you can either upgrade the current infrastructure by expanding the facility or adding office hours to offer more appointments (early or late weekday hours, weekend hours, etc.).
Find the Right Work-Life Balance
Another factor to consider when thinking about ways to maximize practice value is that some choices entail trade-offs that can affect your work-life balance. For example, if you add professionals to your team and/or expand into new locations, you’ll spend more time managing people and facilities. It’s important to make sure you’re okay with that by identifying your personal quality-of-care threshold and being mindful of it while making decisions.
Some highly successful practices are owned and managed by dentists who willingly accept a higher level of fixed overhead in exchange for more personal time. Some extend their reach by adding partners, hiring more support staff and/or keeping longer office hours so they can work shorter shifts to have more family time. It can work well if everyone agrees on the priorities.
The bottom line is that each dentist needs to find their own equilibrium, and many factors are critical in finding that balance, including the number of people you manage and the types of procedures you perform. The practice will require capacity to achieve the right balance, so identify your comfort level and act accordingly.
By Dr. Tyler Orehek, president North America, Airgle.
As we continue to live with COVID-19, the nation is adapting to a new normal. While hopes of fully eradicating the virus are all but gone, the government, businesses, and individuals are now adjusting to living with it.
One industry that must make this a priority is dentistry. Patients wearing masks while at dental offices, is all but impossible. Because of this, the dental industry must take every precaution possible to lower the risk of airborne pathogens spreading during procedures.
One of the most effective ways that the dental industry can adjust to this new normal as it relates to Covid-19, and keep patients safe, is by utilizing air purification systems. So, what exactly should dentists know about indoor air quality (IAQ), and the measures they can take to safeguard it?
Dentistry and Aerosols
It’s important to keep in mind that dentistry generates aerosols. Dental handpieces, air-water syringes and ultrasonic scalers are all capable of producing such aerosols, which typically consist of a mix of air and water from these devices and from the patient’s saliva. These aerosols are capable of remaining suspended in the air for long periods of time and travel even greater distances than splashes and splatters. Thus, the potential for disease transmission, even after the infected individual has left the space, remain high.
While personal protective equipment in dental offices is always recommended, there are additional steps that practices can take to protect both its employees and patients alike.
Deploy Medical Grade Air Purification
One of the best ways is through the use of medical grade, stand-alone air purification systems. The ability of a purifier to capture and contain airborne contaminants, such as pathogens, volatile organic compounds, ultra-fine particulates, and aerosols in general, is primarily determined by the type of filtration used. An air purifier’s effectiveness is correlated with the quality and integrity of the purification filter media itself.
While traditional HEPA filters can be effective at capturing more common pollutants, cHEPA filters are much better equipped at handling the smallest of particles and viruses, which are especially threatening in a dental setting. Cleanroom-grade cHEPA filters have a capture threshold down to .003 microns, a significantly smaller threshold than standard HEPA filters. These medical grade air purification units are capable of capturing the smallest airborne pathogens.
HVAC systems are best equipped for heating and cooling a building, which means that they must be porous enough to allow small contaminants and potentially dangerous pathogens to flow through. Many viruses are as small as 0.1 microns in diameter, which HVAC systems are unable to capture.
This is why medical grade, stand-alone air purification units are the most effective way to filter out pathogens, including viruses, bacteria and mold spores. Additionally, mobile units allow offices to move them to different treatment rooms where most needed.
Today’s dental patients are looking for less-invasive options to improve their smile at a price they can afford. That’s why 3M has introduced the 3M™ Filtek™ Matrix – a new restorative solution that makes composite placement less stressful and more predictable for dentists and more affordable for their patients.
Dental composites can be a great choice to restore or improve the esthetics of a patient’s smile. However, the traditional process can be long and complicated. The Filtek Matrix procedure begins with a digital restoration design. A patient-specific matrix is created that helps the clinician transfer the digital design to the patient’s teeth using 3M dental composites. Unlike more invasive ceramic procedures which often require the removal of tooth structure, the Filtek Matrix relies on additive composite techniques where little to no tooth reduction is required. In a clinical evaluation, dentists reported that using the matrix increased their confidence, delivered predictable and esthetic results, and saved chair time.
“This product brings together leading material science and digital innovation to enable clinicians to predictably and efficiently transform patient smiles,” said Andrew Milder, global portfolio director, 3M Oral Care. “It is exciting to see the amazing results that clinicians have delivered using the Filtek Matrix.”
The Filtek Matrix is the latest innovation in 3M’s industry-leading portfolio of restorative solutions. Clinicians can pair the Filtek Matrix with 3M Filtek Dental Restoratives to deliver excellent composite strength and wear resistance for patients.
According to findings of the 2022 Original Tooth Fairy Poll released by Delta Dental, the Tooth Fairy visited 79% of homes across the country with children ages 6 to 12 who have lost teeth. Most kids are demonstrating patience for the Tooth Fairy’s visit, with more than half of parents (61%) reporting that their child waited for their loose tooth to fall out, unlike 18% of their children that pulled their own tooth. One in three parents agree that the Tooth Fairy is a positive way to instill good oral health habits in their child.
The 2022 poll builds on insights gleaned over nearly a quarter of a century. A few additional highlights from this year’s poll include:
The Tooth Fairy continues to bring joy
More than one in two parents say the Tooth Fairy gives their child something to be excited about (55% 2022 versus 53% 2021).
This year, more parents indicate that the Tooth Fairy provides their child with an opportunity to celebrate something fun (55% 2022 versus 48% 2021).
In fact, 35% of parents express the Tooth Fairy was the perfect way to spread joy in a year when they needed it most (compared to 34% 2021).
“Our oral health is essential to our overall health, and the time-honored tradition of the Tooth Fairy can help bring attention in a fun way to the importance of establishing proper oral hygiene habits at an early age,” said Jennifer Elliott, Chief Marketing Officer, Delta Dental Plans Association. “Delta Dental is committed to increasing the public’s oral health care awareness as we support millions of dental health journeys across America.”
The worth of a lost tooth — cash dominates
Since 1998, Delta Dental has been analyzing the Tooth Fairy’s U.S. annual giving trends. The 2022 Original Tooth Fairy Poll® indicates the Tooth Fairy’s average cash gift reached $5.36 per tooth, an all-time high in the 24-year history of the poll. This year’s value of a lost tooth has more than quadrupled since the inception of the Original Tooth Fairy Poll® when the value of a lost tooth was $1.30. The 2022 poll’s average gift of $5.36 per tooth is 66 cents (14%) higher than the previous peak of $4.70 set last year and well over $1 (33%) more per tooth in 2020 ($4.03). The 2022 poll also finds that 80% of the time the Tooth Fairy leaves only money rather than some other physical gift.
About the survey
The Original Tooth Fairy Poll was conducted between January 19 and January 28, 2022, among a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 parents of children ages 6 to 12. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3%.
For more information about the Delta Dental-sponsored survey, Tooth Fairy resources for families and kids, and oral health tips for infants to pre-teen, visit the Original Tooth Fairy Poll.
As part of a larger update to the organization’s leadership structure, Delta Dental of California recently announced that MohammadReza Navid has been appointed senior vice president and chief relationship and business development officer.
Navid joined Delta Dental in 2006 as vice president of sales in California and was promoted to group vice president of sales and marketing in 2017. In his new role reporting to President Sarah Chavarria, Navid is responsible for Sales, Network Development, Product Strategy, Market Insights and Business Development.
“Mohammad’s leadership has been pivotal in advancing the growth of our market-leading business to encompass more than 40 million members,” said Sarah Chavarria, president of Delta Dental of California. “In his new role, Mohammad will focus on defining our long-term strategies, including business growth opportunities, deepening relationships with new and existing customers, and more closely partnering with our network providers so that together we can deliver exceptional experiences and quality outcomes to patients.”
Navid has spearheaded Delta Dental’s strategic shift to focus on specific customer segments and tailor products to better meet customer needs. Under his leadership, Delta Dental has retained more than 98% of its customers over the past two years, with 99% indicating strong satisfaction with the organization.
Navid has more than two decades of leadership, consulting and sales experience in health care. Prior to joining Delta Dental of California, he was principal at Mercer Health and Benefits.
Navid holds a bachelor’s degree in Business from University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.
Inc. magazine revealed that Spark Dental Management, a leading dental support organization (DSO), was named to the 2021 Inc. 5000 list, ranking at No. 699 overall and 42nd among companies in the Health Services category. This is the fifth year that an affiliate group of Spark Dental Management was included in this prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.
Dental Support Organization Among America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies with 3-Year Revenue Growth of nearly 900%.
The theme of this year’s Inc. list was “Winning in a Time of Change”. The companies on the 2022 Inc. 5000 have not only been successful, but have also demonstrated resilience amid supply chain woes, labor shortages, and the ongoing impact of COVID-19. Among the top 500, the average median three-year revenue growth rate soared to 2,144%. Together, those companies added more than 68,394 jobs over the past three years.
Spark Dental Management saw a year of abundant growth in 2021. Through de novo builds and strategic acquisitions, the dental support organization grew to more than 70 practices and expanded its geographic footprint to seven states. Spark Dental Management now has locations in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, and Indiana.
Spark Dental Management is a multi-specialty dental support organization that provides complete business and operational support services for its affiliated practices. The DSO currently supports 70 pediatric dental and orthodontic practices in seven states as well as five outpatient ambulatory surgery centers, a unique and critical component in solving access to care challenges.
The DSO is a model organization for the delivery of high-quality dental services, recognized for its superior patient care, customer service, and staff. Its mission is to provide exceptional and appropriate dental care to its patients while educating and facilitating a lifetime of excellent oral health.