Senior Mobile Dental started in 2007 after one hygienist's first-hand experience with our nation's "oral health crisis"* amongst a growing, yet neglected, population of senior citizens. Prior to moving to Colorado, registered dental hygienist Michelle Vacha lived in a retirement community in Prescott, Arizona, where she noticed the difficulties many nursing home residents faced in receiving daily and professional oral hygiene care.
Fortunately for underprivileged residents like these, Vacha decided to take action. After moving to Colorado, she took action with a Colorado law that allows dental hygienists to practice independently from dentists. She also realized that she could help nurses by addressing dental compliance directly in the facilities, by providing educational inservice training to staff, and an in-house dental hygiene clinic. Working together gave the staff more time to concentrate on the long list of other important duties essential to the resident's overall well-being. In the future of healthcare, dental and medical care requires a paradigm shift in collaborating together and that citizens cease to view the mouth as a separate entity from the body.
Equipped with more than 20 years of dental hygiene experience, a Bachelor of Science Degree from Northern Arizona University, and a team of licensed dental hygienists, Vacha began bringing mobile dental equipment to willing facilities to perform dental hygiene services for their residents. This is a rare task for a dental professional to attempt because, prior to that point, much of the focus on community oral health programs was geared towards children's needs. Besides access to care, another huge barrier the elderly face is coverage. Many senior citizens lost their dental insurance once they retired, and many more are living on a fixed income. Many seniors face having to choose between buying medications, paying for utilities, etc. over continuing the oral health care they received throughout their life. Medicaid/Medicare does not cover preventive oral health care, and there is limited support for adult oral health care, whereas children at least have coverage with Medicaid.
"I was recently asked to take care of a gentleman with advanced Alzheimer's because his regular dentist no longer wanted him to come to his practice. His family, who knew the importance of oral health, was willing to endure the difficulty of taking him out of the facility, and was rejected. Besides being against the law, this was downright heartbreaking! He ended up having an abscessed tooth, and was able to have it extracted by an oral surgeon whom I was able to recommend," said Vacha.