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Improving Access to Care With Innovation

SD619 / ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS
SD619 / ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

Access to dental care remains a significant issue for any American. Two innovative approaches demonstrate that fresh thinking may help accelerate access to professional treatment. One involves bringing pop-up clinics into various workplaces to provide dental care, while another deploys clinical teams to public libraries to increase access for marginalized populations.

While the concept of mobile dentistry may bring visions of a retrofitted van visiting schools and public health events in areas with limited access to care, Jet Dental is redefining the term by bringing the dental office to the workplace. Designed to eliminate the time needed to drive to the dentist and wait for services, Jet Dental sets up mobile clinics in unused conference rooms or empty offices to serve employees during the workday.

They offer a range of services, including oral exams, Xrays, prophylaxes, restorative care, scaling and root planing, tooth whitening, and clear aligners. Jet Dental bills employees’ insurance for the services provided. Besides helping workers conveniently participate in oral health visits, this model offers an additional perk, as employers can use this in-office benefit as a tool to recruit and retain talent.

In another interesting development, four universities are collaborating in a nationwide effort to improve access to dental care. The free program uses public libraries to reach those most in need. The Narratives and Medical Education (NAME) project is placing predoctoral dental and dental hygiene students in six libraries in California, Indiana, Iowa, and Maryland.

The clinical students will provide screenings and patient education in oral health. In addition, these teams will be joined by English and creative writing students, who will document the patients’ struggles with accessing care in an effort to raise awareness of inequities in healthcare.

Funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the 2-year NAME program is a joint effort of the University of Maryland, San Francisco State University, Indiana University, and the University of Iowa.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. February 2022; 21(2)10.

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