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Dental Plans Adapt and Deliver During COVID-19


Published Aug 10, 2020 • by AHIP

When the COVID-19 crisis shut down businesses, schools, and elective medical services, many people had to postpone routine dental care. Practices are now reopening with enhanced infection control procedures based on new guidelines from the CDC designed to minimize risk to patients and providers, so people can get the dental care they need to preserve their smile and their health.

As they implement processes to limit exposure and risk, dental care providers face increased costs – including additional personal protective equipment (PPE), air filtration, and cleaning supplies – while booking fewer patients to meet social distancing principles.

Many patients are choosing to delay routine maintenance and elective treatment, despite the correlation between oral health and overall health. About 37% of adults said they or another family member had skipped or postponed dental care during the pandemic, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation June 2020 Health Tracking Poll.

Health insurance providers are helping dental providers and patients navigate this new normal as practices begin to reopen.

Payments for PPE: United Concordia, Anthem, and Cigna Dental are providing payments or reimbursements to help dentists in their provider networks cover the cost of PPE to keep patients and providers safe from COVID-19.

Oral Health Education: A new campaign from DentaQuest and America’s ToothFairy aims to teach kids about oral health and tooth decay prevention with fun superhero-themed “missions,” including a video contest.

Continuing Education: DentaQuest is also offering free online continuing education courses for dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and others, including additional infection control content and other best practices related to reopening dental clinics safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Relief Funding for Providers: Delta Dental engaged with Health and Human Services leadership to share data – including submitted claims and patient counts – that demonstrated the financial impact of the crisis on dentists and dental practices. HHS added dentists to the list of providers eligible for federal relief funding.

Teledentistry: You read that right. UnitedHealthcare Dental launched a new offering as a part of the company’s comprehensive COVID-19 response. Patients may opt for a virtual visit for some post-operative consultations, initial screenings, or care coordination with other specialists. And Anthem and Cigna have also launched virtual dental care programs.

Mental Health Resources: Cigna and Humana are helping dental providers overcome the stress and anxiety of returning to work by offering mental health resources and support for in-network dental office employees.