1. What are the major forces that are leading to change in the dental industry and dental practice in the U.S.? How do you see these forces impacting your dental career?
The major forces that cause changes in the dental industry and the changing demographics of the American population and the increase in cost of accessing healthcare in spite of the changes brought about by the adoption of healthcare and benefits schemes. Technology is also becoming a major force in the dental care trends and is changing the way individuals approach their oral health. Patients visiting the dental practice are more likely to do so out of the concern of their oral health compared to fifty years ago when a visit to the dentist necessitated damage repair.
The millennial generation of patients is accessing dental services for the purposes of aesthetics rather than as health concerns. In the last years of the 20th century awareness was created on the need for having regular dental checks. The trends are therefore changing from a minority who would keep their teeth till old age in the 1950s to the current setting where the majority is favored to retain their teeth. More adults are keeping their teeth to old age and the teeth problems have now shifted to the high number of children that are seeking dentist. Dental practice is also becoming advanced and the advances have seen more equipment brought into the practice.
A visit to the dentist fifty years back consisted of cleaning, examination and possible extraction. The same today comprises of prophylaxis, restorations and dental restructuring for aesthetic purposes. The additional procedures brought about by a generation that has information at their disposal have made the services more expensive as additional personnel have to be hired to perform the different task. The different procedures needed show that the future of dentistry may be changing to oral aesthetic procedures.
2. What are the opportunities that you see for the dental industry in general and your career in particular which may be available by serving traditionally underserved populations and partnering with community organizations?
The opportunities available across the underserved populations are immense and medical practitioners can take an intervention mechanism to ensure that their services are available in most locations. Dental care amongst the patients is not covered by most health insurers which have led to the neglecting of oral health concerns.
The opportunities available in dental health revolve around ensuring that dental care receives as much attention as other health concerns. The first task that dentists should tackle is ensuring that major health institutions have dental departments to increase availability of the service when the patients demand for it. Serving traditionally underserved populations require taking the services closer to them but while that can be done using the medical or dental camp approach, a more sustainable approach is required.
Talking to the healthy services providers on the necessity of establishing dental departments as a necessity in their institutions would help address that access gap. Where the resources available would not permit the taking of services to the underserved, a telehealth approach would be mooted where the health practitioners would have the platform of consultation with dentists located at different locations while serving patients. Dental health problems are better left to the dental professionals but when the services cannot be availed, 20% service is better than no service at all. Telehealth would make use of the other medical practitioners to take care of the dental issues while taking ensuring that complex cases are referred to the right professionals.
3. Describe challenges people face getting access to dental care in traditional office, or clinic settings (i.e. financial, social, cultural, language, knowledge, medical, mental). Describe a system that may be better able to reach people who face these barriers?
There are numerous reasons that have prevented people from accessing the dental services and continued having poor oral health. Amongst the barriers to better oral health is the cost of dental procedures. Dental services are not cheap and are sometimes regarded by patients as unnecessary and kept out of the medical insurance packages. When the dental concerns arise to those that are uninsured, the cost of the practice paid out of their pockets is substantial creating the impression that oral health is expensive.
Another barrier to accessing dental services lies in the fact that dental health is not always available throughout the day. There are minimal emergency cases involving dental practice and are not enough to justify the provision of 24 hour services in all locations. Having to choose to constrict the appointments to during the day means that those that only require the services as a precaution keeps on postponing their visits to when they can schedule sufficient time during the day. The system therefore locks out the vast majority of persons that are busy in their work environments.
Increasing the coverage to those that for one reason or another cannot access the brick and mortar institutions requires innovative technologies to maximize coverage. One way of serving the underserved in the community are establishing tele-health services where some staff can be allowed to go out in the communities that are not covered, take diagnostic records that are accessed by dentists from the comfort of their work stations and receive instructions on how to remedy any dental issues that arise. The program increases coverage and reaches the people that are not favored by a visit to the dentist in their locations.
4. Assume you have a contract to improve the oral health of an underserved group that does not traditionally receive dental care in dental offices or clinics (i.e. low income children in pre-schools or elementary schools, people with disabilities living in residential facilities, older adults living in nursing homes, low income children and adults who regularly visit a community center that does not have a dental clinic).
You can choose to organize how you serve this population in any way you want. However, you will be paid based on your ability to demonstrate improvement in oralhealth outcomes for this population. What strategies, (practice design, locations, care team, interventions, partnerships) would you use to maximize your income by producing the best health outcomes at the lowest cost? Please submit the paper via the Canvas “Submit Assignment” button in.
Designing an approach necessary for the improvement of oral health care in the community requires working in collaboration with the health providers to understand the areas that are most underserved. I would device strategies of involving medical practitioners in designing an intervention strategy. There are numerous health institutions that do not have dental facilities that I would use as my starting point to try and understand the number of patients that they refer to other facilities. I would involve them in incorporating a dental strategy that would be sustainable and that patients would look forward to.
I would choose the geographical location to cover in a pilot study then use the statistics gathered in the institutions to determine the number of unfulfilled requests of dental procedures that are referred to other institutions. With the statistics in place, I would then determine the most underserved locations in the area. An intervention aimed at addressing the dental concerns of the community would need a medical team to help the patients get the desired help.
I would put together a team of dental professionals and their assistants in organizing a weekly visit to six stations in every week. When the most deserving stations for dental practice are identified, the team would give a duty roster in such a way that they would always be available in a particular place on certain days of the week and other places in subsequent days. If the schedule said that on Monday they would be at Amar clinic for example, those living close to the facility would be told that they would always be available on that day every week. With that kind of a setup, the number of patients that would benefit from closer services would increase and coverage would improve.