Addressing the Modern Patient’s Dental Dilemma with an Old Fashioned Solution
The iconic doctor’s black bag — stuffed full of instruments and cures, it calls to mind an era when medicine literally packed its bags to meet the needs of its most frail patients where they need it the most: at home. Until the 1950’s, nearly half of all doctor-patient visits occurred in the home. Access to care concerns continue to grow for our elderly and special needs population, prompting today’s physicians and passionate care at home. Mount Sinai Hospital’s visiting doctors program recently found that 92% of its homebound elderly patients needed some form of dental treatment beyond oral hygiene. So why not implement the house call model in delivering dental care?
Although modern dentistry has never truly had the same portable pedigree, House Call Dentists is channeling the spirit of the original house call physician to address the modern patient’s dental dilemma with an old solution. House call dentistry still remains largely unheard of, limited by the dearth of transportable equipment and willing providers – until now.
With recent advances in dental technology, House Call Dentists are able to take x-rays, restore cavities, and ultimately provide comprehensive dental care from the patient’s favorite recliner or even in their bed. This innovation couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time.
The elderly population in the United States is expected to rise over the coming decades, and with it, new problems regarding access to care. Traditionally, these patients have been seen in hospitals or in offices at the mercy of often costly and time-consuming transportation. At best, arranging for this transport is a nuisance. At worst, the burden placed on patients and their families prompts them to simply give up on seeking quality dental care, resulting in a population of underserved adults with oral pain and infection. According to the aforementioned Mount Sinai group, although there was a need for it, 96% of patients surveyed had not seen a dentist since becoming homebound. These patients are then resigned to dealing with dental issues on an emergent basis, when it is most costly, inconvenient, and limited.
House Call Dentists’ goal is to preempt the costly emergency and provide a continuum of preventative dental care from the moment a patient becomes homebound. An initial appointment with our team typically includes a full set of dental radiographs and a comprehensive oral evaluation in the home or care facility. We then work closely with the patient’s primary care team and family/primary decision makers to determine the best treatment plan. While palliative dental care may be the best route for someone who is terminally ill, more extensive restorative work, including bridges and crowns, would best serve a patient who is merely homebound but still enjoys chewing food.
Most often, treatment can begin and end in the home. For patients who are more medically compromised or non-compliant, however, we are able to offer a full range of sedation services in our office under the direct supervision of a physician anesthesiologist, or in the hospital. In any case, we are committed to offering the highest quality dental treatment in the the safest and gentlest setting possible.
In addition to serving the homebound population, we are also experienced dental providers for adults with special needs, as well as those with dental phobias. Treatment of these patients is also complex and often requires utilization of our anesthesia services. Finally, if the only barrier to care is a busy schedule or feeling inconvenienced, our dentists can also visit any general patient desiring to be seen at home or work.
Ultimately, House Call Dentists is trying to solve the common problem of how patients can be treated when they are unable or unwilling to leave their home. We’ve come a long way from merely carrying a big bag of instruments around. Remaining at the forefront of dental technology while embracing the spirit of the original house call physician allows us to modernize dentistry in a way that will provide essential care to future generations in this country.