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November 05, 2018

By David Burger

Tamar Wood at the Hawaii Convention Center
Focused: Tamar Wood, a dental assistant from Independence, Kan., listens to a presentation on dental benefits and coding Oct. 18 at the Hawaii Convention Center during ADA 2018 - America’s Dental Meeting. Drs. Steven Snyder and Christopher Bulnes led the session.
Photo by EZ Event Photography

Honolulu — If anyone needs convincing that dental benefits and coding are among the most crucial nonclinical topics on the minds of dentists and their teams, consider that the two continuing education courses dedicated to those subjects were sold out long in advance of the ADA annual meeting.

Dr. Steven Snyder, immediate past chair of the ADA Council on Dental Benefit Programs, and Dr. Christopher Bulnes, current council chair, led the two presentations back-to-back Oct. 18, with the first course, CDT Code Open Forum: How Dentists Shape the HIPAA Standard, followed by Understanding Dental Benefits and Third Party-Payer Issues.

The first course was devoted to questions and answers between the two presenters and members of the audience, many of them office managers.

“I like the open forum format,” said Dr. Bulnes. “It was a very informed audience.”

“I always enjoy the open forums,” said Dr. Mark Mihalo, a member of the council who stepped in to help answer questions. “When you have an open forum and get questions, you know you’re getting through.”

One of the main takeaways is that the CDT Code is ever evolving and that requests for an addition or revision of the code are usually due Nov. 1 every year at The Code Maintenance Committee, a body that includes representatives from various sectors of the dental community, meets every spring to determine which of the requested actions are incorporated into the CDT Code.

“I’m excited to be here and learn things otherwise we would only get in webinars,” said Jeff Smith, office manager of his wife’s Maryland dental practice. “It was good to hear from [other audience members] who have been doing this for 20 years.”

When the one-hour open forum ended, a two-and-one-half hour lecture immediately followed. Drs. Snyder and Bulnes peppered their presentations with more allusions to ADA resources that could help dental professionals get answers to their thorniest questions about dental benefits. An example is ADA Contract Analysis, which provides members with information concerning a proposed contract so that they can better understand and analyze its terms.

“It is imperative that you review any contract carefully before you sign it,” said Dr. Snyder. “By signing an agreement, you make promises that are legally binding.”

Beth Cox and Tasha Miller, dental assistants whose four-dentist Iowa practice brought 16 members to the annual meeting, said they weren’t aware of all of the ways the ADA could help them in the front office, especially the phone number for the ADA Center for Dental Benefits, Coding and Quality, 1-800-621-8099. “We jotted the number down,” Ms. Miller said.

Audience members were engaged with the presenters, who featured a 140-slide PowerPoint presentation. “They are very good,” said Susan Goodman, a Staten Island, New York, office manager for her husband, Dr. Steven Goodman. She has been coming to the annual meeting for 25 years. “They keep you up to date on all the changes to the code and techniques.”

The ADA has also created an online landing page for dental benefits information that can help dentists address and resolve even their most vexing questions. Go to, part of the ADA Center for Professional Success.

In addition, a series of ADA News articles called Decoding Dental Benefits seeks to educate dentists so they can make informed decisions on dental plan participation and realize what the ADA can do on its members’ behalf. Previous installments in the Decoding Dental Benefits series are available at

“The ADA is definitely working for you,” Dr. Bulnes said.