Future bright for Illinois dentistry

There’s more good news about dentistry in Illinois. According to a Chicago college administrator, the flow of good dentists into practices is thriving and looks to continue that trend.

And Dental Dreams, quoted in this story in Illinois Business Daily, is doing its best to attract the best of these new dentists.

Dr. Darryl Pendleton, associate dean for student and diversity affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), was bursting with optimism.

“In terms of individuals interested in a dental career, it has never been stronger; more people are getting into the profession, and it's never been stronger in terms of attractiveness,” Pendleton, a clinical associate professor at the College of Dentistry, said.

Our own executive Mike Peters said Dental Dreams does its best to attract the best of those young dentists to its offices.

”We work hard in our recruitment of dental school students to help them gain an appreciation that with a practice like ours they can earn attractive compensation, maintain a healthy work/life balance and also serve a community that is in need of high quality dental providers," said Peters. "Working for a practice that serves Medicaid patients can check all the boxes."

Our company is committed to bringing the best possible service to its patients in Illinois — and elsewhere. We appreciate the opportunity to talk about those efforts publicly.

Fighting the battle for better dentists

We were featured in this story about the challenges of hiring dentists in under-served communities.

The heartening part was that young dentists are not opposed to setting up shop in those areas. However, they are burdened by student debt that sometimes causes them to look elsewhere.

Our own executive Mike Peters explains how Dental Dreams attracts the best and brightest to its practices.

”We work hard in our recruitment of dental school students to help them gain an appreciation that with a practice like ours they can earn attractive compensation, maintain a healthy work/life balance and also serve a community that is in need of high quality dental providers," said Peters. "Working for a practice that serves Medicaid patients can check all the boxes."

Our passion is to serve those most in need. We are constantly working to improve our offices to serve our patients better. Sometimes it is a challenge but when we see the happy smiles of our patients, it is all worth it.

##South Carolina publication features Dental Dreams

We were pleased to be featured in story by the Palmetto Business Daily about our offices in South Carolina.

The story highlighted our service to low-income residents in the state.

“We are committed to bringing much-needed medical and dental services to all residents of South Carolina,” Michael Peters, chief operating partner of KOS services, which manages the business operations for Dental Dreams, told Palmetto Business Daily. “There is an extreme shortage of dental service providers for low-income residents in South Carolina and across the country."

Dental Dreams, operating as Family Dental, operates three locations in the state — Rock Hill, Greenville and Columbia.

Peters noted that South Carolina is welcoming to businesses and the company is looking to expand in the state.

Read the entire story here.

Dental Dreams executive quoted

Our executives continue to be quoted in dental news sources.

Recently, Dental Health Wire Reports tapped into the expertise of Peter Stathakis, chief financial officer of Kos Services, the administrative arm of Dental Dreams, which has offices in 11 states, including 18 offices in Illinois.

The story focused on Illinois’ new streamlining process for accessing Medicaid services. Illinois has created a new IMPACT information system for Facility/Agency/Organizations (FAOs).

Stathakis said it is working well, for the most part.

“The actual enrollment process is quite simple,” Stathakis said. “(It) has already saved significant time for our staff.” IMPACT is especially beneficial to dental services with multiple locations, such as Dental Dreams. “The IMPACT system allows us to save all of our locations in the program and associate them with the click of a button for new providers. That option alone saves us time and key-entry errors. This was a big problem in years past with the paper applications.”

We are always in favor of better information services that allow us to serve our patients better.

IL made wise move on adult dental, Dr. Hussain says

Our president Dr Sameera Hussain was quoted recently in Illinois Business Daily discussing Illinois' decision to restore dental coverage to adults via Medicaid.

She noted the move not only helped many citizens in need, it also was prudent financially.

“I give Illinois and other states that have recently extended Medicaid coverage to adults (in addition to children) a great deal of credit for not only addressing an essential health need for everyone regardless of age or income level but for also enacting policy that is financially sound,” Hussain said.

She explained further:

Hussain, whose dental practice is comprised of more than 250 dentists in 65 Dental Dreams offices across 11 states, said that people who go to emergency rooms for dental problems often lose teeth that could have been saved with regular dental visits, and the cost of treating a patient in an emergency room rather than in a dental office is 60-70 percent greater for the state of Illinois.

Dental Dreams is pleased to be part of the solution. The trend across the country is to treat dental care as essential and we wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment.

Our COO quoted in South Carolina story

Our Chief Operating Officer David Wolle is quoted in this Palmetto Business Daily story about the success of the state's new coverage for adult dental care under Medicaid.

David Wolle, the chief operating officer of KOS Services, which manages Family Dental, said the expansion has caused a “meaningful” increase in patients coming to their clinics. The expansion has been a success, he said, particularly for patients that have been putting off very basic care, such as fillings or extractions, that have been causing pain.

Family Dental, which has clinics in Greenville, Rock Hill and Columbia, is an affiliate of Dental Dreams, a provider of dental services with 65 locations in 11 states.

“We’re not talking about luxuries here, like people doing veneers or implants,” Wolle told Palmetto Business Daily. “We’re talking about getting people out of pain — some really overdue, very, very basic dentistry.”

We are pleased that we are part of an effort that is bringing better dental care to adults in South Carolina who previously were suffering. Thanks to the Palmetto Business Daily for highlighting this development.

Dental Dreams helps build hope for disadvantaged communities

We are glad to give back to the community. One of those efforts is to support recreation opportunities for disadvantaged children in Chicago.

One seemingly unlikely way is to provide facilities for playing squash on the South Side. Squash is a game similar to racquetball.

METROsquash director David Kay explained to Illinois Business Daily:

It’s that accessibility that Kay and the crew at the non-profit METROsquash have used to help disadvantaged children in Chicago reach their full academic potential. With the construction of a new building, however, the group needs all the help it can get -- to the tune of roughly $1.5 million per year in operating expenses, as well as volunteers.

A recent donation of $50,000 from Dental Dreams will help the crew at METROSquash to keep doing its work.

Our work at Dental Dreams extends past helping those we serve in our offices. We are committed to helping the communities that house those offices.

Our president featured in great profile

Dental Dreams President Dr. Sameera Hussain is featured in this great profile in the DuPage Policy Journal. Below are the first few paragraphs. For the entire article, go here.

Driven by a deep yearning to serve families in underserved communities, Dr. Sameera Hussain launched Dental Dreams in 2001 in Aurora, Illinois. Since then, the company has grown tremendously to 65 locations in 11 states – 18 of which are in Illinois – and more than 1,300 employees.

More than 250 dentists are employed by Dental Dreams. Serving as president, Hussain oversees the medical practice of each of the dentists. Her husband, attorney Khurram Hussain, serves as the CEO of KOS Services, a management company that handles the administration of the business operations for Dental Dreams. He is also the owner of a successful immigration law firm, Hussain, Egan & Bendersky in Chicago.

“I was very fortunate to have strong and inspiring role models,” Hussain told the DuPage Policy Journal. “Each of my parents helped to shape my path. My mother was a pediatrician and her interest in caring for children and families was a key to helping me choose not just my career path but also the individuals that I most wanted to serve in my career.”

We are passionate about serving others at Dental Dreams and proud of all our employees -- from top to bottom.

Amazing work in Nicaragua noted

Congrats to Oscar Gonzalez and his wife Rebekah for being featured in West Cook News recently about their incredible work helping people in Nicaragua.

The couple, who reside in Chicago’s West Loop, founded the Obek Nicaragua Project to address material deficits in one of the region’s poorest countries. Oscar, who works as regional manager in Michigan and Illinois for the Chicago-based Dental Dreams, keeps an active blog of their journeys and their experiences on the ground.

We showed some pictures from their work recently on this blog.

We are proud of all our employees and the work they do to help others, both in the office and on their own time.

America’s dental health falling behind

Let’s face it — America’s dental health is failing.

While we are making progress providing dental care to children, wide swaths of adults lack dental insurance and thus forego all but emergency care.

Senior citizens on Medicare are the most needy adult population, and they are among the most lacking in means.

A recent post in Salon explains the problem.

As the nation’s largest insurer, Medicare plays an important role in shaping health care coverage norms. Medicare does not cover dental care. Today, according to government estimates, 70 percent of seniors lack dental coverage.

Overall, it is estimated that more than 100 million Americans lack dental insurance and one in four non-elderly citizens have untreated tooth decay, according to Salon.

Obamacare was helpful to some, but it was no panacea.

The ACA provided for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility, though not all states accepted the offer of federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage. Even in the states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, strict limits on oral health care remain for most low- and moderate-income Americans.

The problem with poor dental hygiene go far beyond cosmetics. Poor dental health leads to a wide variety of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. These maladies end up taxing our health care system far more, in many cases, than treating our teeth properly.

Policymakers are coming around to that conclusion, but more slowly than many of us believe is prudent.

Cold weather affects teeth

If you live in a northern climate, spring is arriving soon but cold weather continues to linger. And cold weather can put a chill on your teeth more than any body part.

Any weather extreme can cause dental issues, but cold weather has the biggest impact.

Michigan dentist Dr. Gary Vance recently posted four solid tips for dealing with cold weather teeth issues. The tips were posted on the A Healthier Michigan website.

  • Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash two to three times per day. This will assist in sealing the cold-sensitive teeth.

  • Use a soft bristled toothbrush, as well as desensitizing toothpaste and remember to brush gently, as long as the bristle touches the tooth you are cleaning them.

  • Avoid teeth grinding. If you do grind or clench your teeth, be sure to use a mouth guard at night.

  • Maintain good oral hygiene. As always, continue to follow proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Warmer weather is coming soon and the above tips can be shelved — for several months at least.

Volunteer dentists fill the gaps

Volunteer dentists are coming to the rescue of children most in need of preventative dental care.

The movement comes as a federal report noted that more children are falling through the cracks when it comes to dental care.

A recent example occurred in Peoria, IL, at an annual dental care event in conjunction with American Dental Association's Give the Kids a Smile program. About 40 childrend received screenings, cleanings and sealent as part of the event last month at the local Crittenton Centers.

“We do this every year,” said Sara Leverton, child development center parent educator at Crittenton, noting that a vast majority of children who received free dental care Friday were 18 months to 5 years old, though the care was available for children up to 13 years old.

“It’s just easier for our parents to be able to have this free service, especially for kids who are going into kindergarten,” she said. “It’s also convenient for parents who work, because they don’t have to take time off.”

The federal Health and Human Services inspector general’s office concluded government should push to improve access to care because too few dentists accept Medicaid patients and many parents have not learned the importance of proper dental care.

More than 25 percent of Medicaid children received no dental care

A disturbing trend noted in a recent federal report showed that more than a quarter of children enrolled in Medicaid didn’t receive any dental care at all in 2013.

The finding came within a recent Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General report. It was discussed in a recent post on Becker’s Hospital Review.

A number of children covered by Medicaid didn't visit a dentist at all over the course of two years. "We found a significant number of children, 28 percent, who didn't receive any dental services over a two-year period" although they were enrolled in Medicaid, said Meridith Seife, deputy regional inspector general for the Office of Evaluation and Inspections, according to The Associated Press. In addition, the American Dental Association found less than half — 48 percent — of Medicaid-covered kids saw a dentist in 2013, while 64 percent of privately covered kids saw a dentist the same year.

The report urges states to do a better job to make sure family on Medicaid understand the services available to them and to streamline the process for visits.

We concur that such education is sorely needed.

Maine might expand Medicaid coverage for dental

Across the country, leaders are realizing that extending Medicaid coverage for dental services is a cost saver in the long run.

A recent example in the state of Maine illustrates that. There, the statewide Chamber of Commerce is urging passage of a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage to pregnant women for dental services. Maine is one of 10 states without this provision.

The stereotype of business opposing enlarging government coverage is a myth, at least in Maine. An editorial in Bangor Daily News tells the story.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce took the unusual step of testifying in favor of LD 474. “As a matter of course, the Maine State Chamber rarely, if ever, supports adding mandates on private insurers or on the state’s MaineCare Program,” Peter Gore, vice president of advocacy and government relations, wrote to members of the Committee on Health and Human Services in April. “However, this is one of those instances in which a modest investment today can lead to greater savings, better health outcomes and a more productive workforce in the years ahead.”

As governments look at the big pictures, more and more of them decide dental care coverage for adults and children is best for everyone.

ADA urges more state coordination on Medicaid

The American Dental Association (ADA) is urging state dental associations to become more involved in providing leadership on Medicaid dental services in their states.

Such a move will help retain or gain Medicaid services in their states for adults and children, the ADA says.

Specifically, the ADA’s Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations sponsored a resolution that encourages “all state dental associations to work with their state Medicaid agency in hiring a Chief Medicaid Dental Officer, who is a member of organized dentistry.”

The news was [chronicled](http://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2015-archive/december/ada-supports-state-level-dental-involvement-in-medicaid?nav=news ) on the ADA website recently.

Dr. Sid Whitman, chair of the Medicaid Provider Advisory Committee and a pediatric dentist, said he has witnessed firsthand in New Jersey, his home state, how state dental association involvement in Medicaid “opens the line of communication” and helps entities learn from each other.

“You really have a nice mix of people who have the welfare of the clients as the centerpiece,” he said, adding, “If you’re not at the table, there’s no way to get things done.”

The push for state-by-state coordination comes amid turmoil across state budgets nationwide as Medicaid dental services sometimes are cut back or not advanced at all.

Children seeing more dentists, adults less

There is good news and bad news in an important new study of Americans’ dental habits.

The good news is that the percentage of Medicaid enrolled children who visited a dentist in the past year increased 29 percent from 2000 to 2013. Thus, the gap between privately insured children’s dental care and poorer children has narrowed greatly.

On the negative side, dental visits by adults with private insurance is declining in most states.

The findings above come from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute. The report includes data from all 50 states. It can found here.

In whole, the report indicates that adults value good dental care but are struggling in many instances to pay for it because of the national economy and a changing insurance landscape.

There is an opportunity there for policy makers to match the need with policies that work for all involved.