Mobile Dental Unit

Mobile Dental Services

Welcome to the River Valley Health & Dental website! In the mobile dental services, rural communities deliver dental services through mobile dental vans or portable dental clinics in population centers, schools, or hard-to-reach areas. The focus of this service is to offer access to care for underserved residents of isolated, rural communities. This helps patients that would otherwise have to travel a long distance to access dental services.

The mobile dental service program offers access to dental care, preventive healthcare, and chronic disease screening and management services. Services often offered by mobile dental programs include dental exams and cleanings, education, and dental sealants. Complex procedures, such as root canals and oral surgery, are less commonly offered.

A mobile dental van may include dental working space; X-ray facilities; a sterilization system; and computer for processing claims, updating medical records, and scheduling appointments. Mobile dental programs may also transport dental equipment to Head Start centers, schools, and nursing facilities to enable providers to provide care on site.

Implementation Considerations

Relationships with community members and collaborators are imperative to the success of the mobile dental services model. Rural programs have worked with schools and government agencies that are vested in the program to provide electricity, water, and septic hook-ups for mobile dental vans. While the van is on site, local dental professionals often donate supplies and equipment. Community partners may also provide support by referring clients. The mobile program may refer patients for more specialized care to private dental practices.

Mobile dental services programs have different staffing needs than other programs. For example, programs typically hire or work with a coordinator who is responsible for scheduling appointments, determining eligibility, billing, reporting, and community outreach. Some programs have a policy that van staff must be able to lift at least 50 pounds of portable equipment.

Many mobile dental services operate by using a mix of funding streams. It is common for this program model to maintain diverse funding streams from patient fees, in-kind support from local organizations or foundations, and fundraising events. Maintenance costs for the van must also be considered and may include obtaining appropriate licenses and winterizing the van in harsh climates.Based on the need for the entire population to have access to general medical care and dentistry services in particular, we have developed different models of simple and efficient mobile screening and dental care units. Patients are served with independently equipped Mobile Dental Clinic units.

Mobile Dental Services Programs

The River Valley Health & Dental Mobile Dental Services program, sponsored by the First Community Foundation Partnership, is an example of the mobile dental services model that has been adapted by rural communities.

For additional examples of mobile dental services, see the following program examples in the Rural Health Models and Innovations section:

  • Delta Dental Mobile Program
  • Miles for Smiles Mobile Dental Unit

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