Do you think a dental patient is happy when you relieve that person’s pain or alleviate some type of discomfort? Of course your patient is happy. Why then do so many dentists fail to charge appropriately for this service?
Certainly dentists charge for root canals, extractions, and other restorative work that restores teeth back to health. It’s the seemingly “easy” stuff that typically slips through the cracks.
There is a dental code for palliative treatment of minor dental pain that can be used whenever the dentist resolves a problem, such as a toothache, without fixing the underlying cause. Dentists who remove infection, typically during an emergency exam, and prescribe something for the patient are providing palliative treatment. The patient then returns to that dentist or a specialist to address the underlying cause, which may involve a root canal or extraction.
Dentists also deliver palliative treatment when they smooth the sharp edge of a chipped tooth, for example. The patient leaves feeling much better until he or she can return to have the tooth properly addressed with a crown or new filling.
However, many dentists and dental teams overlook the use of code D9110 for palliative treatment. Since their service is by definition a temporary fix to get someone by, some dentists decide not to charge. Others consider the short amount of time spent chair-side with the patient and they opt not to charge. But that’s exactly why the palliative treatment code was designed.
Your chair-side time is valuable. And anytime you see patients, it requires time to set-up the room and then clean it after the patient departs, not to mention the cost of materials used during the procedure.
Insurance Solutions newsletter has a helpful article this month about the use of the palliative treatment code. I encourage you to read the article as well as to rethink how you bill this procedure. Getting patients out of discomfort is a terrific service, one that deserves an appropriate charge.