August 16, 2022

CareLink Awarded Extension Of Tele-Dentistry Program

Grant provides for new oral care technology to use in long-term care communities throughout Rhode Island

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CareLink, a nonprofit healthcare network of post-acute and community-based providers serving older adults, was awarded a one-year grant extension from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) for the use of tele-dentistry in long-term care communities throughout the state.

The grant extension allows for the expanded use of new intra-oral video cameras for mobile dental hygienists to triage the needs of long-term care residents with oral health concerns. This video and photographic technology, along with portable x-ray equipment, enables the team to visualize gum and mouth tissue, record baseline clinical data, and address areas of concern for the CareLink dentist to review.

“RIDOH and CareLink piloted a tele-dentistry program during the COVID-19 pandemic, as access to nursing homes was limited due to restrictions on personnel entering the nursing facilities,” states Susan Perlini, RDH, BS, PHDH, program director at CareLink’s Mobile Dentistry practice. “No one should have to suffer from oral care issues because they can’t get out to a dentist, so CareLink brought the care to them. During the pilot phase, we utilized cameras in 10 facilities and took over 800 photos. This grant extension will help us optimize more effective triage, responsiveness and urgent care treatment for the vulnerable population we serve.”

CareLink will use the cameras within all of its mobile dentistry partner facilities of which there are over 60 in Rhode Island. CareLink dentists will continue to provide asynchronous interpretation of the images, made recommendations as indicated, and document each patient’s electronic medical record with findings.

Tele-dentistry has been used widely across the U.S. in nursing home settings. According to the Boston-based nonprofit, The DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement, the technology can be used for enhanced disease prevention as part of the oral healthcare delivery system. “Being able to assess the needs of residents during a preventive appointment promotes a sustainable, safe and cost-effective delivery of dental services,” adds Ms. Perlini. “It creates access and equity for all Rhode Islanders.”

For more information on the Mobile Dentistry Program at CareLink, contact Program Director Susan Perlini at (401) 490-7610 x138.

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