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Code Maintenance Committee responsible for yearly changes to CDT Code

April 02, 2018

By David Burger

Editor's note: This is the 10th story in the Decoding Dental Benefits series featuring answers and solutions for dentists when it comes to the world of dental benefits and plans. The series is intended to help untangle many of the issues that can potentially befuddle dentists and their teams so that they can focus on patient care.

In 2000, the U.S. government designated the Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature — commonly known as the CDT Code — as the national terminology for reporting dental services on claims submitted to third-party payers. The ADA was made responsible for maintaining the CDT Code in accordance with ADA bylaws, ADA policy and applicable federal regulations and modifying it as needed. The Council on Dental Benefit Programs heads up this charge for the Association.

But how are all of those changes made?

The changes and modifications to the Code are made by the Code Maintenance Committee, which held its most recent meeting at ADA Headquarters in Chicago on March 15.  The committee convened to address code additions, revisions and deletions submitted for CDT 2019, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

DDB LogoSixty-six substantive and two editorial CDT Code action requests were addressed during the meeting.

Dental procedures continually evolve and the CDT Code provides a means to document services that dentists are delivering, said Dr. Steven I. Snyder, chair of the Council on Dental Benefit Programs.

"We are being responsive to our members," said Dr. Mark Mihalo, chair of the council's Subcommittee on Coding and Transactions.

The ADA chairs the Code Maintenance Committee, a body that includes representatives from various sectors of the dental community, including third-party payers and dental specialties. CMC members, by their votes, determine which of the requested actions are incorporated into the CDT Code.

The ADA has five votes; each specialty organization plus the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Dental Education Association have one vote each; and each payer organization has one vote each.

The CMC meeting is an open forum and anyone can attend, said Dr. Christopher Bulnes, vice chair of the Council of Dental Benefit Programs.

One code addition approved at the 2018 meeting of particular interest, according to Drs. Snyder and Bulnes, was a recommended inclusion of a code requested by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. It is a code for "infiltration of a sustained release therapeutic drug — single or multiple site."

Dr. Bulnes said with the increased focus on the use of opioids and the problems associated with their use, patients are requesting non-narcotic alternatives for post-operative pain control. Dentists are now increasingly utilizing a sustained-release pharmacologic agent infiltrated at the surgical site to reduce the use of narcotic pain medicine in their pain management protocol, he said.

Another code addition for CDT 2019 reflects the rising awareness of the role oral health plays in overall health. Spurred by a proposal from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry and the Maryland State Office of Oral Health, CDT will now include a code assigned to the use of a blood glucose level test that provides an immediate finding of a patient's blood glucose level.

Dr. Bulnes said more and more dentists are testing their patients, for if a diabetic dental patient is about to undergo a long, complex procedure, it is helpful to know what their blood sugar level is at that moment.

The committee will disseminate a complete report to member organizations and post it May 1 on ADA.org/cdt. Code numbers will be assigned in CDT 2019, available this fall.

Have an idea for a new code? The closing date for submission of CDT Code action requests to be considered for inclusion in CDT 2020 is Nov. 1. The portal is available at ADA.org/cdt.

More information about the Code Maintenance Committee's process is available at ADA.org/cdt and dentists with questions can call the ADA toll free or email
dentalcode@ada.org.

The ADA has created a landing page for dental benefits information that can help dentists address and resolve even their most vexing questions, ADA.org/dentalbenefits, part of the Center for Professional Success.

Staff from the Center for Dental Benefits, Coding and Quality can help dentists with dental benefits-related and coding problems, questions and concerns. Call 1-800-621-8099 or email dentalbenefits@ada.org.

Previous installments in the Decoding Dental Benefits series are available at ADA.org/decoding.

Readers can save 15 percent on the CDT 2018 manual and all ADA Catalog products with promo code 18120 until May 31. To order, visit ADAcatalog.org or call 1-800-947-4746.