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Senior Dental Care "On the Move"

Jan 06, 2015

By Dean George

Kid’s dental programs have been in the spotlight for years now. Thanks to scores of volunteer efforts from local dentists in multiple states, statewide dental programs and charity dental treatment at schools in many areas, access to dental treatment for kids is at an all-time high.

And that doesn’t include the expansion of state Medicaid programs offering kids dental treatment (assuming dentist in their areas accept Medicaid patients), and the Affordable Care Act designating pediatric dental treatment as an essential health benefit.

Mobile Dentistry

Largely ignored in these admirable efforts to increase dental access and oral health awareness for youth is another vulnerable segment of the population: America’s seniors and those of all ages diagnosed with physical and mental disabilities, including a fear of public places (agoraphobia), Alzheimer’s, dementia and autism.

Thanks to technological advances, public-private partnerships and some dental volunteers with big hearts, pilot programs are being introduced around the country to provide seniors at-home dental care in a new field of medicine called mobile dentistry.

Think of it as pizza carryout, but rather than a pizza pie dental professionals deliver gentle dental treatment at a senior’s home complete with mobile X-ray equipment, battery-operated drills, fiber optic lights and other tools. Mobile dentists can do routine cleanings, X-rays, extractions, fillings and denture fittings from the privacy of a patient’s home.

And not all mobile practitioners are dentists. California is one of a growing number of states that allow licensed hygienists to perform some dental procedures independent from a dentist, including teeth cleaning, dental sealants and fluoride treatment. 

“Mobile dentistry takes over when they can’t go anymore,” said “retired” California mobile dentist Dr. Dave Kanas. Kanas is one of the new breed dentists that makes house calls, averaging 400 miles a week seeing patients from Sacramento to Grass Valley.

Dr. Kanas recently treated an 81-year-old at the patient’s home from a green La-Z-Boy recliner.  Using a fiber-optic light and a disposable mirror, Kanas did a thorough exam of the patient’s mouth before shooting and developing a black-and-white image that took 50 seconds to develop from a portable X-ray machine.

After reviewing the X-ray, Dr. Kanan made an adjustment of the patient’s flexible plastic partial denture before bidding his patient a good day and hurrying off to his next at-home appointment.

“Mobile dental visits eliminate a barrier, allowing patients to obtain care and helping them maintain good oral health,” said Alicia Malaby, spokeswoman for the California Dental Association.

In New York, a similar program is underway thanks to a unique partnership with Citymeals-on-Wheels, a non-profit food delivery service, and the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. The purpose of the program is to help seniors that have told interviewers they have difficulty eating.

The program first consists of a phone interview followed by a dental house call to low-income seniors to provide them a dental exam. Once the cause of their eating difficulty is identified, treatment referrals are provided as needed.

“As a country we have to start thinking that older adults have dental needs,” said Project Leader Kavita Ahluwalia, assistant professor in the dental school’s community health division. Why aren’t we addressing it?”

At Dental Insurance Store we are proud to offer dental plans specifically designed for seniors, as well as standard plans that offer senior the same level of benefits available to non-seniors, regardless of age. Our discount dental plans are another means that save seniors money. To see plans available in your area, click here.

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Copyright 2015, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©

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