The Dental Emergencies Needing Treatment (DENT) Program has almost completed their 3rd year of connecting Apple Health patients to a dentist for emergent dental needs while preventing unnecessary and costly ER visits, and wow has this program grown. In 2016 we we scheduled 2786 appointments for clients with dental issues.
At our start in July 2014, there were 51 monthly dental appointments being offered through DENT, and this year we consistently offered over 200 appointments each month. This is in large part due to the work our DENT Program Manager Karen Davis has put into recruiting more dentists to participate in the Dental Provider Network by making appointments available to Apple Health patients – that number has grown from 22 participating dentist at the start of the program to 71 today.
Even more exciting from this year was a drop in our no-show rate. Nationally, the the now show rate for dental appointments is between 15-35%. Each patient who is referred to DENT receives personal coaching from a Community Health Worker on what to expect and how to prepare for their appointment. In on recent example, our DENT CHW Rita, worked with a young single mother of two who had severe dental decay in her front teeth. She had extreme anxiety which had kept her away from the dentist for 10 years, but the pain in her teeth had driven her to the ER multiple times. She told Rita that she was so afraid of the dentist that she would prefer to just go under, have all of her teeth taken out, and be given dentures. Rita worked hard to build a relationship that would make this patient feel safe and supported, answering all of her questions, dispelling myths, and encouraging her to take charge of her health. Leading up to the appointment, this young woman sent Rita multiple texts and calls about how nervous she was and how she didn’t think she could do it, but Rita’s support and encouragement helped to get her through the door, and to successfully treating the pain in her mouth. This individual attention and coaching has kept the no show rate of DENT patients at 7% in 2016, which means better access to care for patients, and dollars saved for providers.
DENT’s successes even achieved national attention in 2016, when Karen Davis was asked to present at NASHP’s 29th Annual State Health Policy Conference’s Oral Health Preconference. We couldn’t be more proud of the achievements of the DENT team.