What lessons can we learn from examining dental procedure utilization during the COVID-19 pandemic? A new visual report from CareQuest Institute examines that question, using Medicaid and commercial insurance claims data to find differences in trends by age and insurance type that can inform future planning for providers and dental offices.
Procedures to Resolve Pain Spiked
When looking at procedures as a proportion of overall outpatient encounters, procedures aimed at resolving pain spiked in April 2020 compared to April 2019, but the procedures differed based on insurance type. Oral surgery procedures (e.g. extractions) increased significantly in April 2020, especially for individuals covered by Medicaid insurance. The authors wrote, “As many states’ Medicaid programs cover extractions as part of their emergency coverage, oral health providers may have relied more on this type of procedure in emergency situations during the early days of the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, endodontic procedures increased more for individuals with commercial insurance in April 2020, suggesting that “oral health providers may have chosen to address some dental emergencies using endodontic procedures rather than extractions, particularly for patients with commercial insurance.” Other key findings include:
- Dental encounters began declining in February 2020, dropping to their lowest point in April 2020, returning to near-2019 levels by June 2020, and remaining relatively stable through the rest of 2020.
- Procedures related to preventing disease and fixing minor problems decreased precipitously in the early days of the pandemic.
According to the authors, “These findings suggest that dental providers were following guidance to limit elective treatments and focus on emergent care.” They also noted a need for the oral health profession to maintain a state of emergency readiness to be able to provide consistent care in the face of future public health emergencies.
You may also be interested in:
- Dental Safety Net Providers’ Experiences with COVID-19 Should Inform Dental Pandemic Preparedness, an article in the Journal of the American Dental Association that shares experiences from dental safety net providers about delivering care in the early stages of the pandemic.
- Burnout among Dental Professionals Before and During a Public Health Crises: Causes, Consequences, and Next Steps, a survey of dental providers that explores differences in increased levels of provider burnout at the beginning of COVID-19.
- Medicaid Adult Dental Coverage Checker, an interactive tool for policymakers and advocates to easily understand where a state’s Medicaid adult dental benefits package falls from no dental benefits to extensive benefits, helping identify areas for improvement and expansion.