Continuing Education: Cracking the Code by Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS

Dentaltown Magazine
by Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS

Course description
This course explores how current dental terminology (CDT) code gaps have contributed to a delay in therapeutic care of early periodontal disease, recognition of its medical relevance, and the communication between dental and medical professionals. With more than 29 million Americans living with diabetes and 86 million people living with prediabetes, codes for chairside HbA1c testing, treatment of gingival inflammation and teledentistry have the potential to significantly improve interdisciplinary health care.

New codes can potentially close the loop and elevate our standard of care. For example, a new code exists for the treatment of gingivitis after decades of merely dumping gingival inflammation into the same category as health. With increasing research pointing to the connection between oral disease and medical conditions, the timing is perfect. Early recognition encourages intervention and disease prevention. For example, a simple chairside HbA1c glucose screening via finger-stick can be used to rapidly identify high-risk patients.
A code for the finger-stick can assist in broader adoption in dental practices. With a staggering number of Americans with diabetes and prediabetes, the oral/systemic inflammation creates a cascade of other health issues. Earlier treatment of people beyond the walls of traditional dental practices is paramount.
Teledentistry is a rising trend and an expansion beyond the physical limitations of the traditional dental practice, and will have CDT codes in 2018.
The question is: Why does it take new codes for dentistry to change our deeply held behavior patterns?

Learning Objectives
After reading this article, participants should be able to:

  1. Recognize the influence of CDT coding in dental practices.
  2. Identify the tridirectional relationship with oral disease.
  3. Categorize the decade's trends in periodontics to understand the influence on behavior patterns and code sets.
  4. Demonstrate how teledentistry can increase access to care and practice revenue.
  5. Consider strategic thinking, step-by-step planning and small daily choices and their impact on outcomes.

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Check it out! Listen to Patti and Howard crack the code
Patti DiGangi demystifies dental coding on Dentistry Uncensored with Howard Farran. Get a crash course in dental coding from someone who literally wrote a book on it! To listen, click here.

Author Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS, is an international speaker who works with dental professionals to improve practice profitability. Her work helps dental professionals embrace the opportunities and understand the metrics that accurate insurance coding provides. The ADA recognized her expertise by inviting her to write a chapter in its CDT 2017 Companion book and again for CDT 2018 Companion. She holds publishing and speaking licenses with ADA for Current Dental Terminology 2017 and a license for SNODENT 2017 diagnostic coding. She is the author of the DentalCodeology series. DiGangi can be reached at


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