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April 2023 News

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

According to recent estimates from the American Cancer Society, about 54,010 individuals in the United States were diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in 2021, with an overall 5-year survival rate of approximately 60%. 

Patients can experience a range of symptoms such as swollen or numb areas, a sore throat, difficulty chewing, speaking, and swallowing, along with irregular and discolored mouth sores that aren’t healing. 

As part of a comprehensive oral cancer screening, the American Cancer Society suggests examining several areas for any signs of concern, including: 

  • Palpate for masses, enlarged lymph nodes, and asymmetry around the mouth, face, and neck.
  • For a closer look, gently pulling the tongue with gauze can reveal any reddened or white masses/lesions on the surface or underneath. Some lesions may not be discolored but feel irregular during palpation.
  • Thoroughly examine the roof and floor of the mouth as well as the throat.  

Detecting oral cancer in its early stages can be life-changing, and a simple screening can make all the difference. Don't forget to inform your patients that you're conducting an oral cancer screening during their appointment - it's a thoughtful gesture that can build trust and ultimately benefit your practice. These resources serve as a valuable reminder about the importance of oral cancer screening and provide helpful information on early diagnosis. 

We also have an oral cancer educational flyer you can share with our patients. 

Medicare vs. Medicaid

Medicare and Medicaid are both government-sponsored healthcare programs that provide assistance to eligible individuals. Delta Dental of Illinois does not administer Medicaid benefits but it's important for you to know the differences between Medicaid and Medicare.  

Delta Dental PPO® network dentists in Illinois agreed to participate in our Medicare Advantage network – the same Delta Dental PPO fee schedule will apply. This provides an opportunity for Delta Dental PPO dentists to grow their patient base as we expand our Medicare Advantage program in Illinois. 

We recently announced a new partnership with Devoted Health Plans, a rapidly growing regional healthcare partner for Medicare Advantage. 

With our partnership with Devoted Health, we anticipate thousands of new patients this year looking for network providers for their dental care needs.   

Here’s a further breakdown: 

Medicare is a federal insurance program primarily intended for people over 65 years old or with certain disabilities or chronic illnesses. It is funded through payroll taxes and premiums paid by beneficiaries. Medicare does not typically cover dental benefits with the exception of the Medicare Advantage program. 

Medicaid, on the other hand, is a joint state and federal program that provides healthcare coverage for people with low income and limited resources. It is funded through general tax revenues and administered by each state. 

While they share some similarities, there are significant differences between the two programs, including eligibility requirements, coverage, and costs. Understanding these differences is crucial for individuals to make informed healthcare decisions and utilize the resources available to them. 

The Dental Assistant National Board (DANB) Survey Report 2022

Delta Dental of Illinois would like to extend a thank you to dental assistants who play a major role in the dental office each day. Their skills are crucial to the workplace, and the care and attention to patients are truly invaluable. However, a study by the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB) found that two-thirds of these hardworking individuals may not feel appreciated enough.   

Job Satisfaction Trends 

For more than 15 years, the DANB has conducted a survey to measure the salary, satisfaction levels, and other external factors impacting the dental assistant profession. This survey serves as an essential tool for professionals to stay up-to-date with current trends and make informed career decisions.  

According to DANB’s 2022 survey, 65% of dental assistants reported satisfaction or high levels of satisfaction with their job. The top three job factors that influence satisfaction in the dental assistant profession include: 

  • Salary 
  • Work/life balance 
  • Feeling like part of a team 

However, those without a certification indicated lower levels of job satisfaction. From 2016 to 2022, there has been a noticeable drop in satisfaction of about 20 percentage points. 

The work environment can greatly impact job fulfillment. The 2022 report noted that those who worked in small or medium-sized practices declared higher levels of job satisfaction than their counterparts in larger practices. Dental assistants play a crucial role in the daily operations of any dental office, regardless of its size. 

The Important Role of Dental Assistants  

Dental assistants play a critical role in ensuring the daily operations of a dental office run smoothly. They’re the front line of patient care; dental assistants provide a welcoming environment for those who may be nervous about their visit, and ensure the office is updated with infection control measures, equipment is well-maintained, and supplies are stocked. 

With proper training and certifications, dental assistants can now perform procedures such as applying sealants, coronal polishing, and fluoride application. It’s a constantly evolving job that requires attention to detail, a passion for helping others, and certifications/ongoing training to ensure success in the profession. 

Delta Dental of Illinois Dental Workforce Academy 

By obtaining certifications, dental assistants can earn more money and experience higher job satisfaction. If your office wants to learn more about how we are sponsoring education for the dental assistant team, such as Expanded Function Dental Assistant Certification or training for new hires, please visit our website.  

The State of Illinois requires Basic Life Support (BLS) certification for all Illinois dentists, so we’ve partnered with Edward Elmhurst Health to offer a series of CPR certification classes in 2023. We are proud to sponsor additional training for your dental assistant team, an exclusive sponsorship to our valued network dentists.  

Meet the Professional Relations Team

Meet Christine Kirkwood, Delta Dental Professional Relations Representative. Christine has been with our Professional Relations Department for seven years. She provides support to the dental offices by processing all Network Contract Agreements, all office change requests, and enrollment requests for National EFT/ERA, including changes/updates to information. When she is not at work, Christine enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and working on home improvement DIY projects.