There was an overwhelming response on Oral Health Watch’s Facebook page on this topic. In many cases, people with Apple Health coverage, our state’s Medicaid program, expressed frustration at the difficulties of finding a dentist. Today, we want to dedicate the blog to DentistLink, a web-based program that connects patients with dentists.
Launched last year as a pilot program, DentistLink aims to help people who are having a hard time finding a dentist. The DentistLink services are free and provided by Arcora Foundation, a non-profit funded by Delta Dental of Washington that aims to find lasting solutions that promote improved oral and overall health.
Oral health care is an essential part of maintaining general wellness. An estimated 1.3 million lower-income children and adults in Washington did not see a dentist in 2016. In many cases, the limited access to care was a result of people experiencing difficulty finding a dentist who accepts Apple Health coverage.
“Tooth decay is largely preventable,” said Arcora Foundation senior director Kristen West. “But when people can’t access dental care, painful, expensive and serious complications can emerge from untreated or delayed care.”
Through DentistLink, patients can find a dentist and book an appointment online, by phone, or text messaging, West said. This service is free to patients and dentists.
In addition to finding a dental care provider, DentistLink has helped patients address other impediments to accessing oral health care, including transportation and language barriers, West added. The program also has helped to provide interpreters and case management when needed. West said she anticipates the free referral program will help more people as news of this service spreads.
“Part of the reason why patients give up is they tire of making a lot of phone calls without successfully finding a dentist,” West said. “It’s time-consuming and frustrating. DentistLink has been able to match everybody who has responded with a dentist because we have an easier way of directly reaching out to providers.”
Applying technology and new applications to expand dental care access makes sense these days, said West. More people are using the Internet and cellphones to find information, and most adults are comfortable with texting. Nearly nine in 10 Americans are online, according to a Pew study. And, another Pew study found that 83% of adults own cell phones and 73% of them send and receive text messages.
To learn more about DentistLink, go to www.dentistlink.org. People also can call or text the number 844-888-5465 to reach a DentistLink representative.