Dental HouseCalls

Nov. 4, 2011
VNA Foundation recognizes Dental Lifeline Network-Illinois with the 2011 Anne M. Davis Mobile Health Award.

Dental Lifeline Network-Illinois has received a special award from Chicago's VNA Foundation for outstanding work addressing the oral health needs of people who are elderly or have disabilities and are homebound, in nursing homes, or in care centers.

Dental disease and discomfort is a painful daily reality for thousands of Chicagoans. But for many elderly people or those with disabilities, access to dental treatment presents a special challenge. As a result of their age or disabilities, they are often unable to travel to dental offices for necessary treatment. Many cannot leave their bedrooms, or they live in nursing homes, residential centers, or attend day centers that do not provide oral health services.

And even where services are available, Medicaid covers limited procedures for adult recipients and many people simply go without. Moreover, because of the poor reimbursement rate, many dentists will not accept Medicaid and for those people who cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for services, debilitating pain, and compromised overall health often results.

Providing oral health care to people who are elderly or have disabilities and cannot easily visit a dentist requires creative solutions. One service, Dental HouseCalls--a program of Dental Lifeline Network-Illinois--has been awarded the 2011 Anne M. Davis Mobile Health Award by the VNA Foundation of Chicago.

The award, named in honor of a devoted and valued VNA volunteer and board member, recognizes a VNA Foundation grantee that uses mobile health services in a particularly innovative, effective, and/or impactful way.

Dental Lifeline Network-Illinois and the Chicago Dental Society established the Dental HouseCalls Program 30 years ago to help elderly Chicagoans and those with disabilities by bringing dental treatment directly to where they live or to the facilities where they regularly receive services.

Dental HouseCalls uses a van to transport a fully equipped, portable dental “office” to patients. A coordinator links patients with five participating licensed dentists, drives the van equipped with the modular dental office, sets up the equipment at patient bedsides or in the facility, and assists the dentists.

Plackers donates to Ronald McDonald Care Mobile

Since its inception, Dental HouseCalls has treated more than 35,500 Chicagoans. Program services are provided at no cost to the patient, and 70% of treatment costs are donated by participating dentists.

“One of Mrs. Davis’ particular interests is health care for the underserved as provided by mobile health units,” said Rob DiLeonardi, executive director of the VNA Foundation of Chicago.

“She was always rightfully determined that the VNA’s current work accurately reflect its heritage, and viewed the teams of health-care providers who deliver service on-site via their mobile health vans and buses as perhaps the closest link to the horse-drawn carriages and traveling nurses used by the original Visiting Nurse Association of Chicago.”

For this reason, it was the decision of the VNA board that the best way to honor Davis’s four decades of service was to create the Anne M. Davis Mobile Health Award, a grant to highlight and honor this particular method of health-care delivery.

Although there were many candidates from which to select for this award, Dental Lifeline Network-Illinois and its Dental HouseCalls Program, which for many years has worked to address the oral health needs of underserved persons, was the unanimous choice for the distinction. In this fiscal year, the Dental HouseCalls Program will provide dental care to more than 1,100 people who are elderly or have disabilities.

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