Week in Review: CMS finalizes dental Medicare coverage | New ADA practice data | Scariest case reports this year

Dear DrBicuspid Member,

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded access to dental care for beneficiaries. Our top story of the week covers what you need to know about the Calendar Year 2023 Physician Fee Schedule final rule that was released on Tuesday.

The rule clarifies and finalizes policies in which Medicare will pay for dental services when they are essential to the specific treatment of a beneficiary's primary medical condition. It will also pay for dental services for patients who need an organ transplant, cardiac valve replacement, or valvuloplasty procedure.

Patient demand is decreasing

Dental practices are contending with less busy schedules and lower patient demand, according to poll results released by the ADA Health Policy Institute. Among the 1,200 dentists who responded to the ADA poll, practices were 83% full in October, a 3% drop from the previous month.

In other new survey results from the ADA, about half of dentists reported having patients arrive at dental appointments high on marijuana or other drugs. More patients are also telling clinicians that they regularly use cannabis now that it has been legalized in many states.

Waterline-related infections

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a cluster of nontuberculous mycobacteria infections in children who underwent procedures at pediatric dental clinics where treated water contained high levels of bacteria. The investigation is ongoing, and preliminary dental unit waterline testing results showed microbial counts much higher than the recommended level.

Readers may recall prior waterline-related infections that made headlines, including one in 2016 in which 71 patients at a pediatric dental clinic in Orange County were identified as having odontogenic nontuberculous infections after pulpotomies or "baby root canals."

Scariest case reports of the year

Last but not least, Halloween may be over, but if you need a good fright, editor Melissa Busch compiled a list of our five scariest case reports of the year. The top story concerned a man who lost his sight following a routine tooth extraction. Other hair-raising case reports involve strangely impacted molars, a debridement procedure gone awry, and extruded root canal sealer.

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