Friday, August 24, 2012

The Morning Drill: August 24, 2012

My Dental

Good Friday morning! Are we ready for the weekend?

On to today's dentistry and health headlines:

Local firm taps dental travel

When Richard Dziurda found out five years ago that he needed thousands of dollars in dental work, he wasn't sure he could afford the procedures or even follow through with his dentist's advice. But the predicament led the Metro Detroiter not only to get the work done for thousands of dollars less than expected but to help create a business that assists consumers in reducing the cost of dentistry.

The now-56-year-old high school teacher-turned adjunct college professor stumbled on a news article about dental travel, a growing trend in which U.S. residents venture outside the country to score a better deal on dental work.

Dziurda spent months researching 10 dentists in Costa Rica before he settled on one that met his needs. A two-week vacation later, the dental work was done and Dziurda saved an estimated tens of thousands of dollars in dental work.

"It was the best $8,000 I ever spent," Dziurda said, noting his bill in the U.S. would have been about $40,000.

Dziurda and Jaime Bellos, 41, who taught high school together and both went on the Costa Rican dental trip in 2007, built on their experience to make it easier for other patients to embrace dental travel.

The pair has created a patient-to-dentist website,, which allows those seeking dental work to upload medical records and other information onto the site and seek bids from dentists.

Patients can solicit one bid free of charge; extra bids cost $25. Dentists have a separate site where they detail their experience and specialties.

Dental services for low-income McLean Co. adults to restart

Adult dental services for about 700 Medicaid-eligible McLean County residents will resume under a new model that involves collaboration of three agencies and increased contribution by some patients.

The adult dental clinic at the McLean County Health Department will reopen 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 7 and will be open each Friday, said health department director Walt Howe.

“This is a program that I believe is so important to the community that it would be a disservice if it was not available,” Howe said.

For years, the health department had a weekly pain relief clinic that offered exams, X-rays and extractions for Medicaid-eligible adults to reduce the number of dental patients who went to emergency departments. Few community dentists regularly treat adults on Medicaid.

But effective July 1, the state — as part of cuts to the state budget — eliminated Medicaid reimbursement for adult dental care, except for extraction of one tooth in an emergency.

“Under those conditions, you couldn’t have a planned dental clinic,” Howe said. McLean County — and other health departments with adult dental services — suspended those services. Children’s dental services remained.

Howe didn’t want county residents with genuine need to ignore their dental problems.

“Dental is one of the main health issues in the county, especially for low-income people,” said Joe Gibson, director of John M. Scott Health Resources Center. “People can’t go to work if they’re in dental pain.”

Health Department staff developed a model with a sliding-scale fee. The four tiers will begin with patients in households that earn 133 percent or less of the federal poverty line and they will pay 25 percent of the Medicaid rate. Patients in households with 165 to 200 percent of the federal poverty line will pay 100 percent of the Medicaid rate, or $63 for an exam, X-ray and extraction.

Board suspends Goffstown dentist

State officials have taken emergency action to suspend the license of a Goffstown dentist after hearing allegations that he wrote numerous prescriptions for himself and at one point appeared impaired when he crashed his car on his way to work.

On Wednesday, the state Board of Dental Examiners suspended the license of Gregory A. Tracy on a 60-day emergency basis. The board ordered a hearing for Sept. 10 to decide his future status as a dentist.

The board claims that Tracy also received prescriptions from nearly two dozen health-care providers. After his car accident, Goffstown police let him off with a warning and a ride home, despite several instances of erratic driving.

According to the board, officials started hearing reports earlier this year about Tracy and prescriptions drugs. In January, a pharmacist informed the board Tracy could be writing prescriptions of Vicodin for personal use, board documents say.

In mid-July, Tracy’s physician warned that drugs could impair Tracy’s ability to safely provide dental care. In August, other pharmacies said he was self-prescribing and filling the prescriptions at multiple pharmacies.

Evidence That New Biomimetic Controlled-Release Capsules May Help in Gum Disease

Scientists are trying to open a new front in the battle against gum disease, the leading cause of tooth loss in adults and sometimes termed the most serious oral health problem of the 21st century. They described another treatment approach for the condition in a report at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia August 20.

"Our technology uses controlled-release capsules filled with a protein that would be injected in the pockets between the gums and the teeth," said Steven Little, Ph.D., who reported on the research. "That's ground-zero for periodontal disease ― 'gum disease' ― the place where bacteria breed and inflammation occurs. The capsules dissolve over time, releasing a protein that acts as a homing beacon. It guides immune cells to the diseased area, reducing inflammation, creating an environment that fights the disease process and even could create conditions favorable for gum tissue to regrow."

Enjoy your morning!

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