New and emerging dental care models have great potential to become convenient care solutions in dentistry and help eradicate patients’ most common barriers to receiving the dental care they want and need.
Technology, basic services and mid-level practitioners can make dental care more accessible and affordable for the average person. They can transform preventive dental care from being a segregated concept to being part of a patient’s holistic medical journey — something that happens at clinics, in the emergency room, at home and beyond.
When preventive dental services become an accessible, consumer-friendly convenience — instead of a stigma-laden task akin to pulling teeth — more people will get the necessary dental care they need more often.
Many Better Options for Patients
We’ve already seen the explosion of the “new front door” in health care, where many models have successfully lowered total care costs while providing a valued, consumer-centric experience. Patients can now manage their primary care, chronic conditions and behavioral health through telemedicine, urgent care, retail clinics and even at home or at work through in-person visits and remote monitoring.
Why can’t dental care also have its own new front door, where ease and convenience drives better access, resulting in consumer action rather than apathy?
A Teeth Cleaning While Waiting for Your Flight
When walking through the Minneapolis airport, almost every good or service is right at your fingertips — food from France to Mexico, goods from luxury bubble baths to athleisure apparel, services like shoe shining, flu shots, a virtual driving range in Terminal 1, seaweed wrap massages, or even pre-flight hourly rental of a conference room for 100. So why not spend, say, 20 minutes getting your teeth cleaned and doing a quick scan for periodontal disease or oral cancer before you board your flight? That’s convenient, preventive care. (And, hey, no bad breath for your seatmate to endure!)
Let’s take it a step further for a farmer living on a Wyoming ranch. What if she just snaps a picture of her mouth with the help of an app to quickly identify a potential issue instead of driving 75 miles to the nearest dentist? What if her preventive checkup is with a mid-level dental practitioner and instead takes place at the same office at the same time she receives her annual medical physical? It’s a 25-mile drive, but she gets a physical, cleaning and oral screening all at once. And in the interim between appointments, what if another app on her toothbrush helps her continuously monitor her brushing and assess her potential for developing gum disease? Unfortunately, dental care for many patients just like this Wyoming farmer is more “what if” than “what is” today, even though the capabilities to bridge the gap exist.