Gum disease and dental carries are the most common problems in oral health among the US population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that 47.2% of adults over the age of 30 years suffer from untreated gum disease. Additionally, the ADA has noted that 26.5% of adults age 19 to 64 years, and 16.7% age 65 years and older, live with untreated tooth decay. Not only are the country’s adults living without proper dental care, but a high number of children are too. The ADA also says that 18% of children age 5 to 18 years have untreated cavities or are affected by tooth decay.

The ADA further names several factors that directly affect an individual’s access to quality dental care, including age, level of education, and language barriers. However, the ADA’s research has also shown that the most substantial factors affecting access to dental care are income, insurance status, and geography. Specifically, 59% of adults said they forgo dental care due to cost, either because they are without insurance or are simply unable to afford the expense. Others do not make regular dental appointments because they don’t have a dentist near their home. In fact, 19% of adults reported that they cannot find a convenient dental location or appointment time.

Solutions

Healthcare systems, programs, and foundations as well as other nonprofit organizations have increased their focus on community involvement over the years. For many, this includes improving access to preventative and emergency care to help patients in low-income or underserved areas avoid costly oral diseases that result in tooth extraction, root canals, and other painful operations. Mobile clinics provide access to portable technology and equipment for these areas and patients. Many hospitals and dental clinics seek ways to bring their services to patients in need too, including preventative and emergency dental care.

Mobile dental clinics are not a new concept and have been helping people without access to treatment for the past few decades. Reliable specialty vehicle manufacturers like Wisconsin-based LDV work to meet the increasing demand for accessible health and dental care as needs increase and the desire for mobile dental vehicles continues to grow.

Mobile Dental Clinics in Action

Since 2003, Illinois-based Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) has focused on providing a dental home and preventative services to local community members who lack access to affordable dental care. This fiscal year, the NCH Mobile Dental Clinic facilitated more than 2,400 appointments, providing each patient with a full exam and set of X-rays. The NCH has found that 26% of the population in its service area had not visited a dentist in the past year and 24% lack dental insurance needed to fund proper dental treatment.

As the needs for easy access to dental services increase, NCH decided to upgrade its original cab chassis-style mobile unit to something that was easier and more comfortable for its patients. NCH worked with LDV to develop its new walk-in style vancomplete with a pair of private, fully operational exam rooms and a sterilization area.

The Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation based out of Milwaukee recently partnered with Ascension Seton to launch a new mobile dental clinic that will be used as part of the partners’ school-based health program, Smart Smiles. The new medical vehicle, also manufactured by LDV, is outfitted with 2 patient areas, a sterilization area, and a waiting room. It will be used to facilitate both emergency and preventative appointments for Milwaukee area students with limited access to dental services.

The Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation has been providing the community with makeshift, “pop-up” dental clinics since 2011, and in that time, it has seen 10,000 students. Of these patients, the foundation has found that 40% have untreated cavities, and more than 700 students have had serious dental conditions including infections and abscesses. The mobile clinic’s goal is to serve at least 1,000 students this school year as it continues to assist those in the inner city who do not have transportation, access, or financial ability to receive the dental care they need.

According to the Mobile Health Map, an online resource for mobile health clinics in the United States, there are approximately 2,000 mobile health clinics countrywide that offer services such as primary care, preventive screening, disease management, behavioral health, dental care, pre-natal care, and pediatric care. Of this total, there are just under 200 mobile dental clinics offering quality oral health services to underserved areas and populations. To continue to meet the increasing demand for accessible health and dental care, hospitals and various health organizations seek out high-quality specialty vehicle manufacturers like LDV for their custom mobile medical needs.

Ms. Lynch is the director of marketing and business development at LDV, located in Burlington, Wis. The company was incepted in 1977 and leverages 40 plus years of experience building custom specialty vehicles and is the leading manufacturer of a variety of mobile medical vehicles that provide mammography, dental, general medical, and blood donation services. Delivering innovative technology, dependable mechanical components, and functional designs, LDV provides the innovation and quality customers demand, infusing its experience and superior craftsmanship into every vehicle it builds. For more information, visit ldvusa.com.