Dental Dreams helps build hope for disadvantaged communities

We are glad to give back to the community. One of those efforts is to support recreation opportunities for disadvantaged children in Chicago.

One seemingly unlikely way is to provide facilities for playing squash on the South Side. Squash is a game similar to racquetball.

METROsquash director David Kay explained to Illinois Business Daily:

It’s that accessibility that Kay and the crew at the non-profit METROsquash have used to help disadvantaged children in Chicago reach their full academic potential. With the construction of a new building, however, the group needs all the help it can get -- to the tune of roughly $1.5 million per year in operating expenses, as well as volunteers.

A recent donation of $50,000 from Dental Dreams will help the crew at METROSquash to keep doing its work.

Our work at Dental Dreams extends past helping those we serve in our offices. We are committed to helping the communities that house those offices.

Our president featured in great profile

Dental Dreams President Dr. Sameera Hussain is featured in this great profile in the DuPage Policy Journal. Below are the first few paragraphs. For the entire article, go here.

Driven by a deep yearning to serve families in underserved communities, Dr. Sameera Hussain launched Dental Dreams in 2001 in Aurora, Illinois. Since then, the company has grown tremendously to 65 locations in 11 states – 18 of which are in Illinois – and more than 1,300 employees.

More than 250 dentists are employed by Dental Dreams. Serving as president, Hussain oversees the medical practice of each of the dentists. Her husband, attorney Khurram Hussain, serves as the CEO of KOS Services, a management company that handles the administration of the business operations for Dental Dreams. He is also the owner of a successful immigration law firm, Hussain, Egan & Bendersky in Chicago.

“I was very fortunate to have strong and inspiring role models,” Hussain told the DuPage Policy Journal. “Each of my parents helped to shape my path. My mother was a pediatrician and her interest in caring for children and families was a key to helping me choose not just my career path but also the individuals that I most wanted to serve in my career.”

We are passionate about serving others at Dental Dreams and proud of all our employees -- from top to bottom.

Amazing work in Nicaragua noted

Congrats to Oscar Gonzalez and his wife Rebekah for being featured in West Cook News recently about their incredible work helping people in Nicaragua.

The couple, who reside in Chicago’s West Loop, founded the Obek Nicaragua Project to address material deficits in one of the region’s poorest countries. Oscar, who works as regional manager in Michigan and Illinois for the Chicago-based Dental Dreams, keeps an active blog of their journeys and their experiences on the ground.

We showed some pictures from their work recently on this blog.

We are proud of all our employees and the work they do to help others, both in the office and on their own time.

America’s dental health falling behind

Let’s face it — America’s dental health is failing.

While we are making progress providing dental care to children, wide swaths of adults lack dental insurance and thus forego all but emergency care.

Senior citizens on Medicare are the most needy adult population, and they are among the most lacking in means.

A recent post in Salon explains the problem.

As the nation’s largest insurer, Medicare plays an important role in shaping health care coverage norms. Medicare does not cover dental care. Today, according to government estimates, 70 percent of seniors lack dental coverage.

Overall, it is estimated that more than 100 million Americans lack dental insurance and one in four non-elderly citizens have untreated tooth decay, according to Salon.

Obamacare was helpful to some, but it was no panacea.

The ACA provided for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility, though not all states accepted the offer of federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage. Even in the states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, strict limits on oral health care remain for most low- and moderate-income Americans.

The problem with poor dental hygiene go far beyond cosmetics. Poor dental health leads to a wide variety of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. These maladies end up taxing our health care system far more, in many cases, than treating our teeth properly.

Policymakers are coming around to that conclusion, but more slowly than many of us believe is prudent.

Cold weather affects teeth

If you live in a northern climate, spring is arriving soon but cold weather continues to linger. And cold weather can put a chill on your teeth more than any body part.

Any weather extreme can cause dental issues, but cold weather has the biggest impact.

Michigan dentist Dr. Gary Vance recently posted four solid tips for dealing with cold weather teeth issues. The tips were posted on the A Healthier Michigan website.

  • Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash two to three times per day. This will assist in sealing the cold-sensitive teeth.

  • Use a soft bristled toothbrush, as well as desensitizing toothpaste and remember to brush gently, as long as the bristle touches the tooth you are cleaning them.

  • Avoid teeth grinding. If you do grind or clench your teeth, be sure to use a mouth guard at night.

  • Maintain good oral hygiene. As always, continue to follow proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Warmer weather is coming soon and the above tips can be shelved — for several months at least.

Volunteer dentists fill the gaps

Volunteer dentists are coming to the rescue of children most in need of preventative dental care.

The movement comes as a federal report noted that more children are falling through the cracks when it comes to dental care.

A recent example occurred in Peoria, IL, at an annual dental care event in conjunction with American Dental Association's Give the Kids a Smile program. About 40 childrend received screenings, cleanings and sealent as part of the event last month at the local Crittenton Centers.

“We do this every year,” said Sara Leverton, child development center parent educator at Crittenton, noting that a vast majority of children who received free dental care Friday were 18 months to 5 years old, though the care was available for children up to 13 years old.

“It’s just easier for our parents to be able to have this free service, especially for kids who are going into kindergarten,” she said. “It’s also convenient for parents who work, because they don’t have to take time off.”

The federal Health and Human Services inspector general’s office concluded government should push to improve access to care because too few dentists accept Medicaid patients and many parents have not learned the importance of proper dental care.

More than 25 percent of Medicaid children received no dental care

A disturbing trend noted in a recent federal report showed that more than a quarter of children enrolled in Medicaid didn’t receive any dental care at all in 2013.

The finding came within a recent Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General report. It was discussed in a recent post on Becker’s Hospital Review.

A number of children covered by Medicaid didn't visit a dentist at all over the course of two years. "We found a significant number of children, 28 percent, who didn't receive any dental services over a two-year period" although they were enrolled in Medicaid, said Meridith Seife, deputy regional inspector general for the Office of Evaluation and Inspections, according to The Associated Press. In addition, the American Dental Association found less than half — 48 percent — of Medicaid-covered kids saw a dentist in 2013, while 64 percent of privately covered kids saw a dentist the same year.

The report urges states to do a better job to make sure family on Medicaid understand the services available to them and to streamline the process for visits.

We concur that such education is sorely needed.

Maine might expand Medicaid coverage for dental

Across the country, leaders are realizing that extending Medicaid coverage for dental services is a cost saver in the long run.

A recent example in the state of Maine illustrates that. There, the statewide Chamber of Commerce is urging passage of a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage to pregnant women for dental services. Maine is one of 10 states without this provision.

The stereotype of business opposing enlarging government coverage is a myth, at least in Maine. An editorial in Bangor Daily News tells the story.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce took the unusual step of testifying in favor of LD 474. “As a matter of course, the Maine State Chamber rarely, if ever, supports adding mandates on private insurers or on the state’s MaineCare Program,” Peter Gore, vice president of advocacy and government relations, wrote to members of the Committee on Health and Human Services in April. “However, this is one of those instances in which a modest investment today can lead to greater savings, better health outcomes and a more productive workforce in the years ahead.”

As governments look at the big pictures, more and more of them decide dental care coverage for adults and children is best for everyone.

ADA urges more state coordination on Medicaid

The American Dental Association (ADA) is urging state dental associations to become more involved in providing leadership on Medicaid dental services in their states.

Such a move will help retain or gain Medicaid services in their states for adults and children, the ADA says.

Specifically, the ADA’s Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations sponsored a resolution that encourages “all state dental associations to work with their state Medicaid agency in hiring a Chief Medicaid Dental Officer, who is a member of organized dentistry.”

The news was [chronicled](http://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2015-archive/december/ada-supports-state-level-dental-involvement-in-medicaid?nav=news ) on the ADA website recently.

Dr. Sid Whitman, chair of the Medicaid Provider Advisory Committee and a pediatric dentist, said he has witnessed firsthand in New Jersey, his home state, how state dental association involvement in Medicaid “opens the line of communication” and helps entities learn from each other.

“You really have a nice mix of people who have the welfare of the clients as the centerpiece,” he said, adding, “If you’re not at the table, there’s no way to get things done.”

The push for state-by-state coordination comes amid turmoil across state budgets nationwide as Medicaid dental services sometimes are cut back or not advanced at all.

Children seeing more dentists, adults less

There is good news and bad news in an important new study of Americans’ dental habits.

The good news is that the percentage of Medicaid enrolled children who visited a dentist in the past year increased 29 percent from 2000 to 2013. Thus, the gap between privately insured children’s dental care and poorer children has narrowed greatly.

On the negative side, dental visits by adults with private insurance is declining in most states.

The findings above come from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute. The report includes data from all 50 states. It can found here.

In whole, the report indicates that adults value good dental care but are struggling in many instances to pay for it because of the national economy and a changing insurance landscape.

There is an opportunity there for policy makers to match the need with policies that work for all involved.

Downstate Illinois clinics help fill dental needs

In one downstate Illinois county, dentists are helping fill the needs of low income residents through dental clinics.

Recognizing that not all lower-income residents in McLean County can get by with private insurance or Medicaid coverage, a dentist rushed in to fill the gap.

The Bloomington Pantagraph notes the efforts of Dr. Jack Capodice Jr., oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Bloomington.

Since 1997, Capodice and his partners have hosted pain relief/tooth extraction clinics for McLean County adults who are low income and have no health insurance. Services are free because the oral surgeons, their staff and partnering local dentists donate their time, equipment and supplies.

The clinics began as a monthly effort and were meant to be temporary until the health department started its dental program. Even when the health department launched dental services, the need remained, so the clinic continues twice a year.

Last year, the dental clinics served 538 adults and 5,093 children and another 2,527 children were served through another school-based program.

The good-news story underscores the tremendous need in communities for quality dental care for lower-income adults and children. State reimbursement to dentists for people on Medicaid is low and not timely so many decline to see such patients.

Many forego treatment until an emergency, where they often end up in an emergency room.

”Every dentist I know gives away care," clarified Capodice. "When we all signed up for this, we agreed to help people."

We are thankful for dentists like Capodice. They are a blessing to those in need.

Patient thanks Pennsylvania staff for giving her back her smile

Tracy Evans of Middletown, PA would like to thank Dr. Joshua Kim and the Harrisburg Team for giving her back her smile. Tracy now has the confidence to start her new job and proudly show off her new pearly whites.

(Pictured below with Tracy are office manager Courtney Brader, Dr. Joshua Kim, Dentist; Raynee Doweary, EFDA; Rhyan Hayes, Lead DA; Stevie Irizarry, DA and Alexandria Lueke, DA).

We aim for fun while we make your smiles sparkle

At Dental Dreams, we believe in having fun while improving your smiles.

In our York, PA office we celebrated Halloween with a face painter and balloon artist.

In the photos below are patients Melanie and Marley Thoman, as well as staff member Travis Gwynn and face artist Donna Grentz from Mimzy's Face Painting.

Kalamazoo staff helps out kids

Some members of our Kalamazoo office staff helped kids by participating in the Trunk or Treat event in Portage last weekend. The staff members passed out more than 100 tooth brushes, toothpaste and goodies to foster children. The event was sponsored by Lutheran Social Services of Michigan. We were happy to pitch in!

Dental care for children improves, but adults lag behind

The picture for child dental care is improving, according to a new study, but at the same time adult care is falling behind.

It is a disturbing trend for adults, who are seeing less dental coverage in the private arena and much less public coverage than children.

Findings are from a new state-by-state analysis of dental trends by the American Dental Health Association’s Health Policy Institute. The complete report can be found here.

Financial barriers to dental care are increasing among adults, while for children they are much lower and have not increased over time. Expanded dental benefits coverage for children, mainly through Medicaid and the Children Health Insurance Program, and decreased dental benefits coverage among adults have also played key roles.

According to the American Association of Health Care Journalists website, the report notes that even though access to dental care is on the rise among children, there are still problems in poorer neighborhoods.

The lack of care has had serious oral health consequences for poor beneficiaries who often face elevated risk for disease, and at the same time are more likely to go without treatment.

In nearly all states and the District of Columbia, Medicaid dental visits by children increased between 2005 and 2013, according to the study.

Dental care important during pregnancy

Dental Dreams office manager Natasha Summers of our Reading, PA office visited Reading Hospital recently to discuss the importance of dental care during pregnancy. Approximately 20 expectant mothers attended. Natasha will continue to work with the hospital to dispense this important information.

Patient praises work of dentist

As we always say: It makes our day when a patient is happy. Recently in the Rockford, IL area, a patient was so happy with the work of Dr. Zehra Ali at our Machesney Park office, she wrote the following letter:

Re: Dr. Ali

I would like to take the time to compliment a dentist at Dental Dreams. My dentist is Dr. Ali. I am so grateful for Dr. Ali.

Dr. Ali is extremely detail oriented and an excellent dentist.She is very professional yet very friendly at the same time. She always expresses concern and asks if I am doing okay during the visit. She is very timely and gives explanations of the work she is doing. She has had a different dental assistant as she does my dental work and she is very kind and helpful to the assistants. She does not waste any time during her procedures and yet does everything accurately and in a friendly manner. I have much respect for the person she is and the job she does.

I am so appreciative that I wanted to take the time to let Dental Dreams know what an excellent job she does! Please in some way acknowledge her professional and excellent service.

I thank you in advance,

Lisa XXXX Loves Park, IL

Thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to brighten our day!