Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: diagnostic and preventive services

Virtual dentistry helps employees get the most out of dental coverage

Teledentistry became popular in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but even as businesses and workplaces have reopened, it remains relevant to employees and businesses alike.

The ability to receive a remote dental evaluation is a valuable benefit for employees who might otherwise not use their diagnostic benefits.

What is teledentistry?

Teledentistry, also known as virtual dentistry, is when a dentist performs a consultation via phone, text or video to diagnose dental issues, offer care advice and determine appropriate treatment, which may include a prescription or in-person follow-up visit.

Teledentistry appointments can be synchronous, such as a video call when the dentist and patient are interacting with each other in real-time, or asynchronous, such as when the patient sends a video or photo of their issue to the dentist and receives a reply later.

What teledentistry resources does Delta Dental offer?

  • Toothpic is a photo-based teledentistry platform that offers a virtual dental assessment from a Delta Dental dentist. Employees answer questions about their oral health history and the reason for their visit. Toothpic will help employees take photos of their mouth, which will be sent securely to a Delta Dental dentist for review. In less than 24 hours, employees will receive a comprehensive diagnostic report with their results, treatment options and cost estimates.
  • Delta Dental – Virtual Consult connects Delta Dental members and dentists for real-time video appointments. It’s totally secure and HIPAA-compliant. Virtual Consult makes it easy for employees to connect with a dentist in real time to get virtual consultations, e‑prescriptions and check-ins.

Do employees need special equipment for teledentistry appointments?

Beyond an internet-connected computer or mobile device with a camera, no special equipment is required for teledentistry appointments.

Why would employees want to use teledentistry if they can visit the dentist in person?

Teledentistry appointments can be a convenient way for employees to fit dental care into otherwise busy schedules. Instead of having to take time off work for traveling to and from the dental office, they can simply schedule a teledentistry appointment at their convenience. They can also use teledentistry appointments when they’re feeling ill or don’t wish to travel to the dentist’s office, when issues arise while they’re out of town away from their usual dentist, or when they want an expert opinion outside of regular office hours.

Is teledentistry covered by my company’s Delta Dental plans?

Generally, yes. For Delta Dental PPO™ plans that cover diagnostic and preventive (D&P) services at 100%, teledentistry appointments simply count as a regular exam. For plans that cover these appointments at less than 100%, the Toothpic platform will automatically prorate the cost of appointments accordingly.

And for plans that don’t offer copays for D&P services instead of coinsurance (including DeltaCare® USA), teledentistry appointments are available at a low flat rate.

Where can I get more information about teledentistry services for my employees?

To promote these resources to your employees, download the Toothpic and Virtual Consult flyers under Value-added features.

Employees can also learn more about virtual dentistry on our website, and sign up for Toothpic and Virtual Consult online.

Why poor oral health can be a headache

Sometimes, your oral heath can be enough to give you a headache ― literally. Oral health has been linked to a number of painful conditions that affect the head and neck, including headaches and even migraines.

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, so what better time to learn about how oral health and head, neck and jaw pain are related? Here are some of the main culprits and some steps you can take to protect your employees.

What are dental conditions that might cause headaches?


Bruxism is a fancy word for teeth grinding. Grinding or clenching your teeth can lead to chronic conditions such as headaches, jaw pain and sensitive teeth. Over time, bruxism can seriously damage your tooth enamel and even cause your jaw to move out of proper alignment.


Temporomandibular disorder, also known as TMJ, refers to a variety of conditions that affect TM joints, jaw muscles and facial nerves. TMJ may occur when the jaw twists during opening, closing or side-motion movements. TMJ can cause headaches as well as neck aches.

Dental infections and bacteria

Not surprisingly, cavities and infections can also lead to headaches. What might be more surprising is that bacteria in your mouth may lead to migraines.

Certain oral bacteria can cause nitrates in food to produce nitric acids, which causes blood vessels to dilate and blood flow to increase. This in turn can trigger headaches, including migraines. Researchers have found that people who suffer from migraines have a higher concentration of these bacteria in their mouths than people who don’t.

How can I protect my employees from headaches?

Encourage good oral hygiene

Good old-fashioned brushing and flossing is the best way to prevent cavities and rid your mouth of the harmful bacteria that can contribute to migraines.

Encourage your employees to brush and floss during work, particularly after lunch. Another simple way help employees is to let them know about the surprising benefits chewing gum sweetened with xylitol, which can actually reduce decay-causing oral bacteria.

Finally, don’t forget to let employees know about BrushSmart™, a free oral wellness program available to all Delta Dental members, designed to help improve oral care at home. By signing up, your employees can access special offers from popular oral health care brands.

Promote preventive care

Exams and cleanings help keep teeth healthy, reduce the bacteria that can cause migraines and prevent decay that can lead to headaches. An added bonus is that during an exam, the dentist can also look for other causes of headaches, such as bruxism, jaw misalignment or TMJ. The dentist can then suggest treatments, such as orthodontics or even oral surgery.

If you haven’t, consider adding the D&P Maximum Waiver® to your plan. Diagnostic and preventive care procedures won’t count against your plan’s annual maximums, which encourages your employees to take advantage of these services ― and may help them avoid costly procedures down the line.

A healthy diet can help, too!

Help your employees find ways to improve their diet. A diet low in refined sugar helps prevent decay and migraine-causing bacteria. Avoiding foods high in nitrates like processed meats can also help employees avoid migraines, and drinking fluoridated water helps to strengthen teeth and wash away harmful bacteria.

Consider offering healthy snacks in your office vending machine and suggesting healthy, teeth-friendly recipes.

Help reduce stress

Stress contributes to oral conditions such as bruxism and TMJ, both of which are common causes of headaches. And stress eating unhealthy food high in sugar and nitrates can not only harm teeth and gums, but they can also trigger migraines.

To help, provide employees with strategies for reducing their stress, including exercise programs, mediation and even repainting common spaces in soothing colors!

These are just a few of the ways to help ensure your employees remain healthy, happy and most importantly, headache free. For more ideas and information, share the wellness resources Delta Dental offers for National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month.

Teledentistry 101: the virtual office visit

As businesses, schools and organizations continue to adapt to COVID-19, dental offices are embracing new conferencing tools to deliver care safely.

As part of the reopening efforts, more dentists and their patients have turned to teledentistry, an emerging trend that has the power to reshape the industry as we know it. Approximately 25% of dentists reported using some form of virtual, limited evaluation of patients, according to an April COVID-19 economic tracking poll from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute. In July, the HPI poll showed usage slipping to 12%, noting that larger group practices are more likely to use teledentistry than solo practices.

Dr. Nathan Suter, owner of a House, Missouri, dental practice and a consulting firm, Access Teledentistry, predicts teledentistry will become more mainstream. This is due to its multiple uses, such as when a dentist is traveling or if there is a schedule conflict.

For your employees, this is a valuable option in maintaining their oral health. As a primer on teledentistry, here are insights on its use and impact and how Delta Dental is supporting this advance in care.

What is teledentistry?

Teledentistry is when a dentist conducts a virtual consultation via phone, text or video to diagnose issues, offer care advice and determine if an in-person visit is necessary.

Teledentistry appointments can be synchronous, such as a video call where the dentist and patient are interacting with each other, or asynchronous, such as when the patient sends a description of his or her situation and a photo and waits for a reply.

What kind of equipment is needed for teledentistry appointments?

The equipment and software needed may vary based on dentists’ preferences and capabilities. Teledentistry may require nothing more than a phone or may require a smart device, computer or specialized app. Businesses now incorporate videoconferencing software for team meetings, and this can be used in dental consultations.

If dental offices have reopened, why is teledentistry relevant?

Dentist offices may be open, but that doesn’t mean that your employees won’t benefit from teledentistry solutions. Just as working from home has shown the value of video meetings and connecting with co-workers without being in person, employees may find teledentistry a useful option when seeking dental care.

In a public opinion survey, 70% of respondents indicated they would take a COVID-19 vaccine once it is available, and 12% are waiting for a vaccine to go back to the dentist, according to Sports and Leisure Research Group’s “Back to Normal Barometer” in July.

Whether your employees are eager or hesitant to return the dentist, teledentistry is the perfect tool for staying in touch, getting care and getting advice without going into the dentist’s office. The ADA has issued guidelines for teledentistry, specifying patient rights regarding this delivery of care.

What is Delta Dental doing with regards to teledentistry?

Delta Dental covers teledentistry appointments at the same benefit levels as diagnostic services to ensure that employees have coverage for their dental needs while staying safe from COVID-19. We’re encouraging dentists to use teledentistry for emergency diagnoses and non-emergency consultations.

What’s more, Delta Dental is looking into partnerships with teledentistry companies to improve the experience for both dentists and their patients.

How will teledentistry change the benefits industry?

Even as vaccines are distributed and control of the COVID-19 virus can be managed, your employees may expect teledentistry to be included as a standard part of any insurance plan (for example, Kaiser Permanente is launching plans with a heavy focus on telehealth). Employees may shy away from plans and dentists that can’t accommodate teledentistry. Those who live in remote areas may gain better access to professional care through teledentistry.

Dentists may incorporate teledentistry as a viable option in their scheduling so your employees can receive care when and how they need it.

Is teledentistry covered by Delta Dental plans?

Delta Dental covers teledentistry services as problem-focused exams. That means they fall into the category of diagnostic care, and are subject to the same rules and limitations (for example, diagnostic and preventive services are usually covered at no cost to the patient, but only a certain number of such appointments are covered each year).

With dental offices adapting to safety needs, you can encourage your employees to maintain their oral health. Teledentistry provides a vital option for them to manage their care through regular checkups and access to expert consultation.

3 ways to help prevent oral cancer

A group high five

2‑minute read

Oral cancer. If you had to guess how common it is, what would you say? Many of us would probably put it near the bottom of the list. Surprisingly, in 2018, together, cancers of the mouth and throat ranked sixth among the most common cancers worldwide While that’s an alarming number, there are steps that you can take to help prevent your workforce from contributing to this tragic statistic. 

1. Debunk the myths

There are a number of misconceptions about oral cancer that can stand in the way of prevention. Help educate your enrollees by providing the facts:

Myth: I’m young — I don’t need to worry about oral cancer.

Fact: Although the risk of oral cancer increases after age 50, more than 25% of diagnoses occur in adults younger than 55. In fact, a growing number of younger people are developing oral cancer, which may be linked to persistent viral infections such as human papillomavirus (HPV). 

Myth: Oral cancer only affects men.

Fact: While it’s true that men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer, women are steadily closing the gap (for decades, oral cancer was six times more common in men than in women). 

Myth: I don’t smoke, so I’m not at risk.

Fact: Yes, smoking is a major risk factor for oral cancer, but it’s not the only one. Excessive alcohol use and sun exposure, even without smoking, can still increase the risk.

2. Encourage regular dentist visits

The early symptoms of oral cancers often go unnoticed, making them particularly dangerous. That’s why encouraging enrollees to have regular dental exams is so important. Dentists and dental hygienists may be able to identify the signs and symptoms of oral cancers when they’re still in the early or even pre-cancerous stages.

Cancer screening is a part of any comprehensive adult screening with a Delta Dental dentist. This screening is noninvasive and doesn’t involve radiation.

3. Share the risks and warning signs

Awareness is the key to prevention. That’s why we’ve created shareable resources to help you spread the word about oral cancer on our SmileWay® Wellness site. Encourage your enrollees to check out these articles:

Want more wellness tips like these? Subscribe to Word of Mouth, our newsletter for benefits administrators, human resources professionals and businesses.

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XO X‑rays

While it can be difficult to resist a sparkling smile, it’s what’s within a person that really matters. And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to encourage enrollees to take a look inside — their smiles that is! From bone loss to oral tumors, dental x‑rays can help reveal tooth and gum problems beneath the surface.

Help enrollees love their smiles from the inside out. Share this flyer to help answer some of the most common questions about dental x‑rays like:

  • What are dental x‑rays for?
  • Who needs them?
  • Are they safe?
  • What kind of x‑rays are there?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Learn about more procedures by checking out the entire Common Procedures Series.

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