15:40 PM

2015 in Review: The State of Dental Care

Looking back on my first year as CEO of DentaQuest, I am in awe of the milestones we have achieved as a nation to advance oral health care and humbled by the crucial role DentaQuest has played in support of the national oral health movement. With a particular focus on expanding access to dental services, goals were met, systems were put in place and new objectives were established.

Oral Health Research Developments

The Early Childhood Caries (ECC) Collaborative, initially launched in 2008 by the DentaQuest Institute, made serious headway this past year as the third phase came to completion.

Phase III testing sites implemented disease management protocol for patients ages 6 to 60, and worked to redesign their care delivery systems to ensure every child receives a caries risk assessment.

To complement this effort, care providers began collaborating with parents to prevent and manage their child’s risk of developing caries. By reinforcing updated treatment protocols and engaging parents to change behaviors, we can positively impact a child’s risk of disease. And, to date, preliminary results have indicated positive outcomes.

Another major DentaQuest Institute development that I blogged about recently is the Medical Oral Expanded Care (MORE Care) initiative.

This pilot program equips doctors’ offices with the appropriate tools to provide preventive oral health services in South Carolina, connecting medical and dental practices to establish an integrated referral-based health system. The success of this program lays the foundation for similar programs to adopt this collaborative, holistic approach to a patient’s health.

New Oral Health Goals and Conversation

At the DentaQuest Foundation, the Oral Health 2020 initiative had another successful year. During its annual convening in the fall, the Foundation unveiled new and updated Oral Health 2020 goals, refining an existing goal to raise the number of children who will reach age 5 without a cavity from 75 percent to 85 percent.

Additionally, two new goals were added, aiming to integrate oral health into at least 50 percent of emerging person-centered care models, as well as improving the public perception of the value of oral health to overall health. Transforming the national conversation, the DentaQuest Foundation is constantly looking to break barriers and insert oral health into the overall health and wellness conversation.

Across the country, the Foundation also launched its Grassroots Engagement Strategy, providing grants to support local, community-based organizations. In Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the organizations are working to evaluate, integrate and provide oral health care and knowledge to immensely diverse populations.

The national movement begins at the community level, and we aim to support and enable organizations that align with our mission to advance the oral health of all.

Increased Access to Health Care

In 2015, we reached a major milestone when our vision program, eyeQuest, reached more than 1 million members. Currently in eight markets, eyeQuest offers a full line of vision and eye care services.

On the dental benefits side, we are proud to announce that we are currently serving 24 million members. As we continue to grow, we look forward to providing dental and vision care to many more people seeking high-quality, effective health solutions.

Last February marked the one-year anniversary of DentaQuest managing the Tennessee child dental Medicaid program, TennCare.

Helping approximately 750,000 children, TennCare members benefit from lower costs, closer access to services and education on the importance of routine dental care. With the end of our second year quickly approaching, we are excited that we’ll soon be able to share new information about improved outcomes in Tennessee.

Across our organization, we have shared a common goal of creating partnerships to make a lasting impact on peoples’ health. As evidenced by programs such as TennCare, ECC and Oral Health 2020, establishing partnerships can lead to improved outcomes for everyone.

National Advances in Health Care

On April 16, 2015, President Obama officially extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two more years. The CHIP extension allocates approximately $20 billion over 10 years to states that help insure children in need.

By the end of 2015, a total of 31 states expanded Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), providing affordable health insurance coverage options to adults through Medicaid in addition to the Health Insurance Exchanges.

In an effort to improve the health system, states and the federal government came to the table in 2015 to advance preventive oral health care. While it will take years to realize all of the benefits of this collaboration, these are very important steps on the path to improve oral heath in our nation.

One great example is the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ approval of Medi-Cal 2020– the federal 1115 waiver that allocates funding for crucial health care advancements in California. The Medi-Cal 2020 waiver includes a Dental Transformation Initiative to bring much-needed improvements and changes to the dental care system throughout the state.

What’s Next for 2016

Looking to the year ahead, we must continue with this momentum. Despite the significant progress made last year and the continued focus on the importance of oral health, our work has only just started.

As an election year, 2016 will certainly be an exciting one with many changes on the horizon. We must work together to build on our successes, foster strong partnerships and grow this oral health movement. Together we can transform the systems of care, finance, policy and community to achieve optimal oral – and overall – health at the local, regional and national levels.