House Call Dentists have been bringing quality dental care to their patients’ homes in New York since 2013
Since SelectCare opened its doors in 1985, New York City has undergone some impressive changes in how it serves older adults who have difficulty leaving their homes. Services exist to help homebound pet owners care for their companions, a whole industry of food delivery services can bring the best meals in the city to your door, major hospitals now regularly send physicians on house calls, and companies like House Call Dentists can bring a fully-equipped dental office to your couch or bedside.
This week, I spoke with Carla Caramat of House Call Dentists to learn about her practice and how her company’s dentists serve New York’s homebound population.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Most people we consider “homebound” are restricted to their apartments due to the symptoms of a serious medical condition. As a result, the condition causing these symptoms oftentimes dominates the attention of a patient’s medical team.
Carla Caramat of House Call Dentists said that because of this “big picture” focus, it’s easy for patients and their families to forget about dental care.
“If you or I had an abscess or an infection on our face or arms, you would seek help immediately,” Caramat said. “But if you have that same issue in your mouth, it’s easier for you and others to ignore it.”
Current data from a Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors Program study backs up these concerns: According to Mount Sinai, 96 percent of all homebound seniors have not received dental treatment since becoming homebound, the patients surveyed had, on average, not seen a dentist’s chair for between three and six years, creating further health challenges for the patient.
Not only are homebound seniors less likely to receive regular dental care, Caramat added that many homebound patients are prescribed drugs that can negatively impact their oral health. In particular, Caramat said many patients experience xerostomia, or dry mouth, which can be caused by more than 500 medications, including antidepressants, high blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, diuretics, and pain killers. While dry mouth might seem like little more than a hassle when you’ve gone too long without a drink, sustained dry mouth greatly accelerates tooth decay and gum disease.
A Dentist At the Door
These might seem like steep challenges, but House Call Dentists has been bringing quality dental care to their patients’ homes in New York since 2013. Caramat credits her practice’s success to advances in dental technology and their patient-and-family-focused methods of treatment.
When visiting a patient for the first time, a dentist and dental assistant come prepared with a suitcase-sized portable dental unit that packs all the tools for everything from a routine exam to root canals, as well as a handheld x-ray unit that can instantly provide high definition images of a patient’s mouth. Because of this equipments small size, dental procedures that previously required a full dental office can now be performed while the patient lays in bed or sits in their favorite chair.
During this initial checkup, the dentist will consult with a patient’s primary care physician and the patient’s family in order to develop an ongoing plan of care. This includes identifying any medications that might have an impact on future dental procedures, as well as identifying what level of care the patient will need.
Caramat explained that for patients on hospice, her practice will oftentimes perform “palliative dental care” meant to ease any immediate pain caused by dental problems, while patients not on hospice, but might have neglected dental care, oftentimes undergo more comprehensive procedures to stave off future oral health challenges.
The First Step
Although portable equipment and travelling dentists might sound costly, Caramat said her practice offers services at prices comparable to what one would expect at a traditional dental practice.
Currently, House Call Dentists serves clients in all five boroughs, as well as some patients outside of the city proper. New clients usually receive their first visit within a day or two of calling to schedule a visit.
“When dad or mom becomes homebound, dental care can become the lowest priority in the health ecosystem of our loved ones,” Caramat said. “One of the most important things we do is remind families how important our oral health is, bringing that urgency to families. Let’s not take the mouth for granted.”
SelectCare is proud to be a part of the growing network of care available to homebound seniors. If you or a loved one has questions about home care or would like to learn more about the incredible resources available to homebound seniors, call our office today to speak with a home health care expert.