Shift your focus: the new generation of dental billing

Dec. 21, 2011
The oral-systemic connection is now causing a monumental shift in the dental health field. Christine Taxin offers first steps you can take to market your dental wellness center to patients.

By Christine Taxin

More and more information emerges each day about the connection between certain serious medical conditions and poor oral health. Consider these headlines found in a recent dental journal: “Periodontal disease may have even more of an impact on overall health than previously thought,” and “Biomarkers in Saliva Help Detect Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer.”

Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute recently discovered a large number of Fusobacterium cells in colorectal tumor samples, prompting them to consider that the bacteria primarily found in dental plaque may play a role in causing colon cancer.

Need more? The American Academy for Oral Systemic Health declared 2011, “The Year of the Mouth.” The AAOSH points out there is a growing mountain of research connecting poor oral health to the deadliest of diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. “Oral health problems have also been shown to have close connections to many other serious health concerns like Alzheimer’s, arthritis, pneumonia, and pregnancy complications,” they maintain.

The oral-systemic connection is apparent to all: dentists, medical doctors, and, finally, patients. This is now causing a monumental shift in the dental health field. You are no longer operating a dental office — you are now the proud owner of a dental wellness center! Congratulations! And by the way, you can now start billing some routine and special dental services to your patient’s medical insurance.

Hold on there, you say. How do I do that? The springboard to accomplish is there in front of you. This change in billing procedures can be learned and “set in stone,” becoming an integral part of daily operations at your dental wellness center. Your patients’ oral and overall health will benefit, and your business will benefit too.

Time and time again, our patients’ dental insurance falls woefully short. Obtaining reimbursement through medical insurance for certain important dental treatment will increase case acceptance, allowing you to provide better patient care. Your dental wellness center can take action on conditions in the oral cavity such as periodontal disease, sleep apnea, TMD, and more that could potentially impact patients’ overall health and quality of life.

Key first steps to take:

  • Open your mind to this new billing change. Remember oral surgeons have been cross-code billing successfully for decades!
  • Pinpoint the procedures you can bill to medical insurance, and determine their medical necessity. Then document, document, document in patients’ records.
  • Review your charts to find the patients at greatest risk. Those patients with heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, TMD, and pregnancy are great places to start.
  • Educate patients about how their oral conditions affect their overall health. Get out your soap box and use your bulletin boards, on-hold messages, newsletters, email alerts, and social media.
  • Learn to implement these billing processes, or outsource it.

The increasing prominence of the oral-systemic connection also provides new ways to market your business. The mindset of a dental wellness center can promote a healthy recall system and reactivate patients who are staying away from the office. A little patient communication will go a long way — show you care about their overall health, and convince them their dental recall appointments can potentially save their lives.

Another potential marketing benefit to being a dental wellness center: physician referrals. Physicians are tuned into the new research and know the importance of the oral-systemic connection. Build relationships with physicians and specialists. They can potentially provide your dental wellness center with a steady stream of new patients.

Author bio
Christine Taxin is the president of Links2Success. With more than 20 years’ experience as a consultant, Christine's passion is improving practice performance and increasing profitability through communication, team training, and goal setting. Her clients and workshop attendees benefit from her expertise in administration, internal and external marketing, financial planning, and insurance billing. Christine is a member of the Speaking Consulting Network and the Academy of Dental Management Consultants. She is an adjunct instructor at NYU Dental School and teaches in the residency programs at Maimonides Medical Center and Jamaica Hospital. You can reach Christine at [email protected].