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It’s time to rethink what you know about mobile dentistry: Why dental hygienists should consider it

Dec. 3, 2019
Throw out the preconceived notions regarding what the mobile delivery model has been about and imagine how you can benefit by adding it to your career.

Now is the time to rethink what you know about mobile dentistry. Throw out the preconceived notions regarding what the mobile delivery model has been about and imagine how you can benefit by adding it to your career. Our colleagues in public health pioneered the mobile dentistry movement decades ago and have proven that the simple idea of bringing services to patients can be a successful way to reach untapped patient populations.

But why should you rethink mobile dentistry now? A recent shift in consumer mindset has prioritized convenience as a driving force when making decisions. Cutting-edge technology and a new reliance on mobile devices have helped shift consumers to a mindset where mobile anything is accepted and even expected.

The bottom line for the dental industry is this: a dental practice that isn’t reaching patients through a mobile device or mobile delivery of services may soon find it difficult to communicate with them. 

Imagine this scenario: every Tuesday you pack up a few supplies and a portable dental unit. You travel down the block and set up your operatory in the conference room of the university. After providing assessments, hygiene therapy, intraoral photos, and radiographs, you schedule each patient to visit your practice to follow up with any restorative needs. 

Benefits of mobile dentistry

• Adds a new revenue stream—How often and in how many ways do dental practice owners try to increase revenue? Mobile delivery is an easy and dependable way to interact with the community and expand practice reach beyond the traditional four walls.

• Increases marketing, new patients, and referrals—Adding a mobile arm enables the practice to market and reach new patients in your area while funneling outstanding treatment back to the physical practice. 

• Adds flexibility and adaptability—Mobile delivery is flexible and adaptable so it can work for you. You can begin with one or more providers, choose which procedures to offer, specify delivery style, and determine frequency and service site. You can design mobile dentistry to work for you.

• Expands the dental practice—Traditionally, expanding a dental practice has meant adding evening and weekend hours or building an entirely new office. With mobile delivery, practices have the capability of adding more provider hours and operatories without the hassle of increasing the workweek or the costly fees of adding on to the building.

• Has a minimal start-up cost—Though mobile dentistry can involve dental vans, trailers, or pods, using portable dental units can be just as effective and means lower start-up and maintenance costs. Though there may be more physical labor involved in setting up a portable op than a dental van, portable dental units are a great first step in the mobile journey.

Do you think this is not possible for dental hygienists in your state? The good news is that it probably is! Even if dental hygienists cannot own a dental practice, there are many other ways to provide mobile services in collaboration with a dentist. 

To see if mobile dentistry is right for you and your career, study your state dental practice act to search for regulations regarding mobile services, supervision, scope, and teledentistry. Once you understand what your state requires, connect with others in mobile dentistry to learn from them. 

An easy way to do this is to attend the first annual National Mobile Dentistry Conference, February 28­-29, 2020, in Orlando, Florida. This event will bring together mobile pioneers, industry leaders, and experts from both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Course topics include mobile dentistry 101, teledentistry, how to make a profit with mobile services, what to look for when choosing and designing portable and mobile units, and much more. For information, visit nmdconference.com. 

Thanks to new technology and shifts in consumer mindsets, it has never been easier to reimagine what mobile dentistry can do for you.

MELISSA TURNER, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA, is a valued thought leader and advisor in the industry. She is a cofounder of the first annual National Mobile Dentistry Conference on February 28-29, 2020, and the creator of I Heart Mobile Dentistry, a Facebook support group for clinicians practicing mobile dentistry. Turner is executive moderator for the Dental Peeps Network. She can be reached at [email protected].