Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Morning Drill: June 5, 2012

Dr. Rick Kushner, D.D.S.

Good Tuesday morning!

On to today's dentistry and health headlines:

Marquette alum donates $1 million to dentistry school expansion

A Marquette University School of Dentistry alumnus will donate $1 million toward the school's 40,000-square-foot expansion, Marquette announced Monday.

Dr. Rick Kushner's $1 million gift to the Building for the Future campaign will help create a fifth clinic within the School of Dentistry, to be named the Comfort Dental clinic, allowing the school's patient care practice to increase by 24 stations, the university announced.

Kushner challenged other alumni to contribute throughout the month of June to match his gift.

Kushner, a 1977 graduate of the School of Dentistry, founded Comfort Dental, a franchise of 100 clinics in 10 states that provide affordable dental care. A Denver native, Kushner chose to attend Marquette at a time when there were no dental schools in Western states, according to a news release from Marquette.

Kushner was the first in his family to attend college.

“As a first generation college student, I want aspiring dentists to have the same support and opportunities I’ve had," Kushner said in a statement. "At the same time, I hope that I can encourage my fellow alums to contribute to the school’s expansion.”

All 350 doctors in the Comfort Dental franchise Kushner founded more than 35 years ago are equity partners in their own clinics. Partner dentists are required to close their practice on Christmas Eve for Care Day, and provide free care to those in need.

Kushner, who also funds a scholarship at the dental school, said in the release that his relationship with William Lobb, dean of the Marquette School of Dentistry, was a catalyst for his support of the school. Under Lobb’s leadership the past 15 years, the school has developed a curriculum that focuses on evidence-based care, as well as caring for the whole community.

Man sues dentist over use of low quality material in crown

Local resident Chris Ammons has filed suit against George H. Johnson Jr. D.D.S., complaining the defendant lied about the quality of materials used to construct his crowns.

According to a lawsuit filed May 30 in Galveston County District Court, Ammons discovered that one of the crowns was built with a metal that was of low quality during a visit to the defendant's office approximately five months ago.

Court papers show Ammons previously saw Dr. Johnson for therapeutic pulpotomies, root canal therapy, crown buildup and the placement of the crowns in question.

In late December 2009, the plaintiff paid the defendant nearly $800 for a porcelain-fused-to-high-noble metal crown, the suit states.

He returned last Jan. 23 to have the crown fitted when he observed the packing slip for the crown and noticed what he thought was a mistake.

"Disturbingly, the packing slip containing the plaintiff's crown indicated that the metal used was not high noble; instead, the crown was constructed of porcelain-fused-to-base metal (nickel and chromium)," the original petition says.

"After realizing that the metal used by the laboratory to construct his crown was of lower quality than that the defendant represented he would receive, the plaintiff took the crown (for which he paid on Dec. 27, 2011) and packing slip and left the defendant's office."

The suit further explains that porcelain-fused-to-base-metal crowns "are more difficult to work with and do not fit teeth as intimately."

Dental price clubs: Should you bite?

With traditional health coverage, individuals bet they won’t end up paying more in premiums than they get back. The insurer, on the other hand, bets that a policyholder won’t have a catastrophe.

Dental is different. For starters, the annual maximum payouts are low—$1,000 to $2,000. That means with pricey procedures, such as root canals or tooth extractions, one quickly ends up paying out-of-pocket. The actual risk the companies take on is pretty minimal, experts said. Even though regular checkups are fully covered, not everyone goes twice a year as recommended. Dental benefits providers pocket those unused dollars.

And those low payout caps? Dentists say they haven’t changed since the late 1970s. If they had risen with inflation, they’d be closer to $4,000 to $8,000 today.

To get a better understanding, I called Delta Dental, which provides 56 million Americans with coverage, and asked why their product is called insurance. “We typically refer to it as dental benefits,” said spokesman Chris Pyle. While there’s no official policy on the term, they “try not to refer to it as insurance,” he said, adding, “technically, we’re a not-for-profit dental service corporation.”

What about the low ceiling on annual caps? “We could have a $10,000 annual max, but no one would be able to afford it,” Pyle said. Delta, he pointed out, imposes whatever caps are requested by the companies. The company declined to estimate what the premiums would be for someone in a group with a $10,000 annual cap.

Dental groups urge U.S. opposition to international amalgam curbs

A ten-organization dental coalition June 4 urged the U.S. government to oppose international mercury treaty curbs on dental amalgam.

The fourth session of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC4) to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury will convene June 27-July 2 in Punta del Este, Uruguay. INC3 was held Oct. 31-Nov. 4 in Nairobi, Kenya. INC5 will meet in Geneva, Switzerland in January 2013 to conclude treaty negotiations. The text will then be open for signature at a 2013 diplomatic conference in Japan.

“One small component of that draft binding instrument relates to dental amalgam, a dental restorative material needed to provide the most effective treatment for certain clinical situations and populations,” said the coalition letter to the U.S. Department of State. “We urge the United States to oppose any effort in these negotiations to ban or limit the availability of dental amalgam.”

The letter is signed by organizations “represent(ing) the preeminent authorities on and advocates for oral health,” the Academy of General Dentistry, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Periodontology, American Association of Endodontists, American Association of Orthodontists, American Association of Public Health Dentistry, American Dental Association, Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors and International Association for Dental Research.

Enjoy your morning!

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