Teledentistry in Action: Completing a Network of Care

Thousands of young children in the counties west of Charlotte receive annual dental care in their schools’ parking lots. With an active, and growing, mobile dental network, Kintegra Health’s Dental ACCESS Program is improving children’s oral health, and teledentistry is a vital piece of the puzzle.

On board one of Kintegra Health’s mobile buses, complete with three chairs, an x-ray room, and plenty of cartoons to keep children occupied.

“The program has just blossomed,” said Melissa Boughman, director of the ACCESS Program. “We have 60 schools that we work with now, and we saw 5,500 children last year.”

If schools remain open this fall and avoid COVID-19 outbreaks, the ACCESS Program is on track to see between 6,000 and 7,000 students this year, according to Boughman.

Students now receive temperature scans to screen for COVID-19 symptoms at the beginning of their visits to the Dental ACCESS Program.

“Parents working (with limited) access, specifically transportation access, means that parents sometimes can’t get to the dental office, or they can’t get time off of work to come to the dental office,” said Dr. William Donigan, dental director at Kintegra Health. “We need these children to get as much care as we can give them without the parents having to be here.”

“In Title I schools, transportation is such a major issue,” said Boughman. “It’s so wonderful that we’ve been blessed with these mobile dental units that we can drive right up, park, and they bring the children out to us.”

In one day at Battleground Elementary in Lincoln County, the hygienists and assistants on this mobile bus will see around 30 kids.

The ACCESS Program has two mobile dental buses, complete with three dental chairs and an x-ray room, as well as a dental van for follow-ups and dental sealants.

Once a child is on the bus, Kintegra’s dental team takes a series of nine photographs of the child’s teeth as well as x-rays, if necessary. While the dental hygienists and assistants can only provide preventive care on the mobile buses, the care doesn’t stop once a child goes back to class. Thanks to the Kintegra’s teledentistry software, those photos and x-rays are automatically uploaded, made immediately available to dentists and staff at one of their brick-and-mortar sites.

The computers on Kintegra Health’s mobile buses transmit data in real time to staff at clinic sites.

“Literally immediately, we can view all of that information at one of our sites,” said Donigan. “So, our Dental ACCESS Program navigators can then talk to the dentist and direct the parents to get the patient in for the care that they need.”

Dental navigators are another vital piece of the puzzle. Kintegra employs navigators to help parents and patients efficiently get the care that they need. For parents experiencing any of a slew of social determinants of health that make accessing care more difficult, having someone there to guide the process along can have a big impact on the care a child receives.

For more on dental navigators and how they increase access to care, check out a blog by one of our summer interns on community care coordination.

With a complete network, connecting the staff on Kintegra’s dental buses to the dentists at their clinic locations, children who may have not received care otherwise now have the opportunity to receive regular care.

“We see the difference in the children we have seen for many years versus the newcomers like the kindergarteners, and in some schools pre-k,” said Boughman. “When we see them yearly, we see a big difference. We also do education because we all know that education is the most important part of all of this. Once we clean their teeth (plaque and tartar) will come back quickly, but if we teach them how to take care of their teeth, they can have a lifetime of great (oral health).”

Want to see teledentistry in action?

Join NCOHC for Oral Health Day Part 2 to see how clinics like Kintegra Health use teledentistry to improve access to patient care. We just announced a change of plans. Instead of in-person tours, we will bring tours of clinics, including Kintegra Health, to you virtually on [DATE], along with a star-studded panel of teledentistry experts from across the country!

Learn more and register here.

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