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COVID-19 information

COVID-19 information

As states have begun relaxing restrictions put in place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are asking if it’s safe to return to their dentists. On April 30, 2020, the American Dental Association ended its recommendation to postpone dental care. To help you decide if returning to the dentist at this time is right for you, here are some guidelines for scheduling an appointment and what you can expect before and during your visit.

Before you schedule an appointment

  • Consider scheduling a teledentistry appointment first. Teledentistry makes it possible to get a problem-focused diagnosis remotely. With a virtual appointment, your dentist will be able to determine if you have issues that require an in-office visit.
  • If you have a dental emergency, such as a broken tooth, severe pain, or swelling in your face or mouth, contact your dentist immediately.
  • If you have ongoing treatment, such as orthodontics, a crown fitting or treatment for gum disease, work with your dentist to establish a treatment schedule that meets your needs.
  • If you have a compromised immune system or pre-existing health conditions, please refer to CDC guidelines. These guidelines are updated as our understanding of the disease and its spread changes, so it can be helpful to refer to them regularly.

Some changes you might notice at the dentist’s office

Dentist offices across the country are making changes to ensure the health and well-being of patients, dentists and office staff. Many safety protocols were originally developed to stop the spread of bloodborne illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, but COVID-19 has required dentists to rethink safety practices in order to stop airborne illnesses. For example, dental tools have always been sterilized between patients, but new practices may include wiping down and disinfecting all surfaces in examination rooms. These new practices may mean that fewer appointments are available each day, as it takes more time to clean and sanitize in between seeing patients.

Before your dentist sees you

  • You may be asked to wait outside or in your vehicle rather than in the waiting room.
  • There may be a hand sanitizer station or disinfectant supplies available when you enter the office.
  • If your dentist’s waiting room is open, there may be less furniture, different furniture altogether and disposable items such as tissues or pens. Having fewer chairs and tables helps to reduce the number of surfaces that can potentially transmit COVID-19. You may also notice that difficult-to-clean items, such as children’s magazines or toys, have been removed completely.
  • You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine if you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19. You may have your temperature taken for the same reason.

Once you’re in the chair

  • You may notice new tools in the office, such as HEPA filters or air purifiers designed to help remove virus particles from the air.
  • You may receive a pre-treatment rinse with hydrogen peroxide or chlorhexidine in use at your dentist’s office. These rinses may help to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
  • Your dentist and office staff will likely be wearing more protective personal equipment than before. Dentists normally wear gloves, goggles and surgical masks. Now, you may see N95-rated masks, face shields, surgical caps and shoe covers as well. Additionally, you may be asked to wear a dental dam to help prevent the spread of saliva.
  • Your dentist and a staff member may work on you at the same. This technique is known as four-handed dentistry. It allows your dentist to perform procedures while the staff member helps to manage the spread of saliva and saliva-based aerosols. Your dentist may have an additional aerosol evacuation system (the suction device used during dental procedures to capture excess saliva) for this reason as well.

All around the country, dentists and their staff are working hard to provide a safe and healthy environment. The experience the next time you visit your dentist may be different than you remember and may take some time to get used to, but we can all work together to manage the risks of COVID-19 and keep smiling.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dentists have taken precautions to protect patient health, either by closing their offices temporarily or by establishing certain guidelines for providing care.

You, your dentist, and the dental staff need to adapt to new ways of interaction to ensure safety during the pandemic. Dental office teams are focused on infection control, distancing and wearing personal protective equipment, such as gowns, masks and face shields. By necessity, they may limit visits to urgent or immediate care needs.

If you cannot make an office visit or you seek a diagnosis to determine your needs, you may have access to services through teledentistry. This new approach enables dentists to have virtual live consultations with patients through videoconferencing software or phone applications.

As businesses across the nation use videoconferencing software so teams can continue working, dental offices are integrating this approach to provide personalized care when onsite visits are limited or not feasible.

What is teledentistry?

In teledentistry, your dentist will use phone, text or video to provide a virtual consultation to address your problems and determine if you need to schedule an in-person visit. You can set up an appointment with your dental office, by phone or online, to discuss problems. These visits are billed as visits with problem-focused evaluations.

The American Dental Association has issued guidelines for teledentistry, specifying patient rights regarding this delivery of care.

What conditions can teledentistry manage?

Your dentist can determine through consultation whether you have an emergency dental problem and can provide instructions on how to treat conditions. If you have a cracked or chipped tooth, soft tissue lesion (bump), small cavity, jaw pain or similar non-emergency condition, a teledentistry consultation through phone or video may work. If you need urgent treatment, it must be scheduled for an onsite visit.

4 steps in using teledentistry services

Check your insurance plan coverage for details on what teledentistry services are included. Delta Dental covers teledentistry services. Your coverage benefits for problem-focused exams would apply.

Once you know you need care delivered remotely, take four action steps.

  1. Contact your dental office to find out if teledentistry services are offered, how they are scheduled, and how appointments are set up.
  2. Ensure that you have the technology (such as conferencing software or mobile app) for video and audio communication with your dentist.
  3. Fill out any required paperwork. This might include an intake form, patient consent and new patient form if it’s a first-time meeting.
  4. Know your rights as a patient. Educate yourself on Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines to protect your privacy and the confidentiality of your health information.

In these challenging times, it’s reassuring to know that with teledentistry, you have options when visiting a dental office is not possible or recommended.

We are actively monitoring information about coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Dental Association (ADA) and other public health agencies to provide updates to our providers, customers and members and to ensure their health and safety.

The ADA and other government agencies recommend postponing elective procedures at this time. Out of respect for these guidelines and for everyone’s health and safety, please use teledentistry to assess your patients for non-emergency consults, as well as for diagnosing emergency situations, before they come into the office.

Delta Dental will accept claims for services delivered through teledentistry. Under Delta Dental policy, the teledentistry codes (D9995 and D9996) are considered descriptive only and are not a billable item to the patient or reimbursed by Delta Dental. Claims for teledentistry should list the appropriate evaluation procedure code, such as D0140, D0170, and on a separate line, the teledentistry code D9995 for real-time interactions (synchronous – e.g., telephone consultation or digital visual interactions) and D9996 for text, photo or other non-live interactions (asynchronous.) Please refer to the applicable program Dental Office Handbook for plan coverage. Standard dental policy will apply to the evaluation codes.

In response to government orders to shelter in place, and to limit the spread of the virus, we have shifted most of our employees to work from home. As a result, we are strongly urging all providers to submit claims through our online tools — Dental Office Toolkit for Federal Government Programs or Provider Tools — to ensure you are paid as quickly as possible. We will be prioritizing electronic submissions and will address paper submissions as our capacity allows.

We sincerely appreciate your care for our members. Please stay healthy and safe during this crisis.