Why is Dentistry Expensive?

By FDA President David F. Boden, DDS, MS

Really, the question should be: Why is my dentistry expensive? To answer that, I will tell you a story about what happens in your mouth, and mine.

With few exceptions, we are born with the code for great oral health. Our teeth grow and form and eventually say, “Hello,” to the world, hugged nice and tight by healthy gums, ready to do their job for our bodies in helping condition food for digestion. Soon after, they make their premiere, they will be exposed to the enemy of any mammal: bacteria. Bacteria have one purpose: to feed on us and break us down. But they also get a free meal every time we eat. They form colonies of bacteria on our teeth we call plaque, just like they do on high school biology class petri dishes.

Some bacteria convert parts of that food into acids, which allow them to etch into a tooth’s nice, hard, pretty enamel. If they are there long enough, those acids will eat right through into the nerve in the center of that tooth. Our body senses that and registers it in the brain as pain, saying something is very wrong and needs attention. There are other bacteria that make their homes in gums. They feed on tissues, triggering our bodies to fight back with what doctors call an inflammatory reaction. This causes bleeding gums, but unfortunately, the signals sent to our brains are very weak and do not register until a lot of damage has already occurred.

Both cavities and gum disease can cause tooth loss. Unless, of course, you see a dentist. That dentist will attempt to repair tooth damage in numerous ways, depending on the extent of the damage. That can involve fillings, crowns or even root canal treatment. Gum problems — because they are so sneaky and quiet — often are overlooked. Repair can be pretty invasive, including surgery. In health terminology, we refer to reparative procedures as tertiary care. More on that in a moment.

All these repairs are costly because they involve work by a general dentist or dental specialist who has gone through time-consuming, intensive, and very expensive education to perform specialized types of hard-tissue (your teeth) or soft-tissue (your gums) microsurgical techniques using the very best instruments and materials in an extremely clean environment. And, of course, you would not have it any other way.

But it does not have to cost that much. No, I do not mean by getting dental insurance discounts on treatment. High quality dental treatment means a high overhead of costs for the ethical doctor. Deep discounts require cutting corners somewhere in your treatment, and I will let you guess what that means. Actually, it generally means more expense later.

Recall what was mentioned above. Tertiary care is reparative, and repairs are very costly. Why not do something that would avoid those repairs? We know bacteria are the cause of almost all dental problems. If we could only prevent those bacteria from collecting and setting up shop where they do damage, we could prevent the need for repairs!

Prevention is called primary care, and prevention is dirt cheap. Unfortunately, it also requires your dedication. The low-tech toothbrush is the single best invention for doing most of that by disrupting that bacterial plaque from causing trouble. But a brush only cleans half of each tooth. Floss must clean the other half. You must do both, because anywhere you miss cleaning, bacteria will set up shop, grow bigger, and eat and etch to their way to those costly repair procedures. Just insist you have great coaches to train you how to do it well and effectively — your dentist and dental hygienist.

So, why is your dentistry expensive? Because you did not clean off those bacteria. So, get cracking and break out that brush and doggone floss. Every. Single. Day. Because those bugs are sure hoping you’ll leave them alone to feed on you. And to borrow from Smokey the Bear: Remember, only YOU can prevent tooth decay.

Dr. Boden is the FDA president and can be reached dboden@bot.floridadental.org.

“Chew on This!” How Dentists Can Obtain and Maintain Work-life Balance

How can busy professionals juggle dentistry, family, finances and more? Learn some techniques and how to find perspective in this “Chew on This!” interview with Audie Cashion. A licensed ONE Thing trainer, Cashion is passionate about helping dentists manage stress and experience success by implementing new ways of thinking. 

Watch Audie Cashion’s interview with FDA Executive Director Drew Eason and tune in regularly to see what’s next. By taking advantage of a complimentary subscription to Beyond the Bite, you will receive email notices with new posts and will be entered into a monthly drawing for a $10 Starbucks gift card!

Remediable Tasks Delegable to Dental Assistants and Hygienists

Did you know that the Florida Dental Association (FDA) website has a chart of remediable tasks delegable to dental assistants and hygienists? This member-only benefit lists the various remediable tasks with the corresponding level of supervision required. In addition, it lists the level of training required before the assistant or hygienist can perform the task.

To access the chart, please visit floridadental.org/advocacy/delegation-of-duties. To view the entire rule of tasks delegable to dental hygienists and assistants, please visit bit.ly/2PSBtAC.

For a full list of the rules governing the practice of dentistry please visit: bit.ly/39LLt5U.

If you have further questions on remediable tasks, supervision levels or other Florida Board of Dentistry (BOD) rules, please contact BOD Liaison Dr. Joe Calderone at drcalderone@gmail.com or FDA Director of Third Party Payers and Professional Affairs Ms. Casey Stoutamire at cstoutamire@floridadental.org.


Reprinted from Today’s FDA, May/June 2021. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view Today’s FDA archives.

HIPAA-compliance Solution Provides Much-needed Peace of Mind

By

How Abyde’s simplified solution gave Comprehensive Dental Care “one less thing to worry about” and much-needed “peace of mind” in their complete HIPAA-compliance program.

“Solved a Problem We Didn’t Even Know We Had”

For many practice owners and managers, it’s common for HIPAA compliance to become a “secondary thought” when added to the quite extensive list of other roles and responsibilities.While many independent providers find it often infeasible to dedicate a full-time position solely focused on HIPAA privacy and security, the recent rise in data breaches and government enforcement has made prioritizing compliance a must. So when it came to finding much needed “peace of mind” for practice owner and manager of Comprehensive Dental Care, Florida Dental Association (FDA) member Dr. Oscar Menendez and Denise Mendendez, Abyde “solved the problem they didn’t even know they had” with a simplified approach to achieving HIPAA compliance.

As a successful practice in the dental industry for more than 35 years, Comprehensive Dental had always assumed that completing their annual HIPAA-training courses and maintaining a culture of compliance within their organization was enough to avoid the so-called “HIPAA police.” They maintained a strong focus on patient care and protecting sensitive health data, but just lacked the documentation to prove their efforts in meeting these important HIPAA standards. However, with the many legislative changes, HIPAA violations and cyber attacks that have seemed to take the health care industry by storm over the past year, they saw the increasing importance of filling in some of those small gaps that might have previously been missing.

Easy-to-Manage Compliance, Easy-to-Use Software

As most practice managers could probably attest to, Denise simply “didn’t want to manage another thing” and was looking for a solution that not only made HIPAA easy but was easy to use itself. As a member of the FDA, she was familiar with the FDA’s preferred HIPAA-compliance vendor, Abyde, and “after seeing the presentation and learning a few statistics on HIPAA laws/lawsuits,” she became “very interested in the product.” Immediately after signing up, Denise was “pleasantly surprised that Abyde did everything that they said they would do in the initial contact with the sales representative” and she was “extremely impressed with the program itself and its ease of use” and happy to find that the “setup process wasn’t very hard or time consuming” to work into her already busy schedule.

Beyond the onboarding process, Denise has found that the maintenance involved with using Abyde was a no-brainer. As new laws and patient needs continue to evolve, “practice managers get busy and don’t necessarily have the time to manage the complexities of HIPAA.” And while years ago having a lock on the cabinet that held patient records might’ve seemed like enough to keep data protected, technology and social media have “blurred the lines” between patient confidentiality and HIPAA best practices. So for Denise, “receiving emails and notifications has made keeping up with any necessary updates simple and provides assurance that nothing is being missed.”  

“One Less Thing to Worry About”

In addition to taking some of the HIPAA weight off of Denise’s shoulders, Abyde also gave practice owner, Dr. Oscar Menendez, “one less thing to worry about.” With industry-leading features including automated and engaging HIPAA training videos, he was provided confidence that each of his staff members were given the necessary education to handle patient information properly. As there is no telling when your organization may come face-to-face with a HIPAA incident, whether due to the rising risk of health care data breaches or increase in patient complaint numbers, Dr. Menendez notes that “if you do experience some type of incident, having documented proof of compliance and knowing how to address it is essential.”

While Denise emphasizes that the Abyde software solution itself is one of the “easiest I’ve ever seen or worked with,” there’s even more value beyond the uniquely better interface, including a support team of HIPAA experts that Dr. Menendez is thankful are always available ”to guide us through” any questions. Between the automated notifications, comprehensive Security Risk Analysis, HIPAA training videos and other industry leading features, Abyde provides endless benefits for health care organizations all across the country.

When looking at the time and resources that’s required to manage a complete HIPAA program in-house, having a solution that “for a small fee, keeps us up to date, compliant and more aware” has been a huge help for Comprehensive Dental Care. And the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your practice is not only compliant, but also has the documentation to prove compliance efforts is truly priceless. So, no matter if you’re a small independent dental provider or a large multi-location organization, in Dr. Menendez’s words himself, “Every provider should have Abyde — they’re crazy not to!”


Abyde is an FDA Crown Savings Endorsed Partner and the Abyde software solution is the easiest way for any sized dental practice to implement and sustain comprehensive HIPAA compliance programs. FDA members save 20% on Abyde services that help their practices meet government-mandated HIPAA standards that protect patient health information by identifying and correcting key security safeguards. For more information, visit fdaservices.com/abyde or call 800.594.0883.