The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine (Penn
Dental Medicine) is continuing to build upon its services to persons with
disabilities through the development of two new resources—a teledentistry
assessment portal and a series of education videos, being made possible in
great part through recent gifts from CareQuest
Institute for Oral Health and the Eagles
Autism Foundation, respectively.
“We are tremendously grateful to the CareQuest Institute and the
Eagles Autism Foundation for their support,” says Dr. Miriam Robbins, Director
of Penn Dental Medicine’s Care Center for Persons with Disabilities. “The
service we are able to provide to our patients will truly be enhanced through
these new resources.”
The teledentistry assessment portal, piloted through a $67,600
grant from CareQuest, is helping to maximize access to the school’s
Personalized Care Suite within its Care Center for Persons with Disabilities.
The Care Suite, which became fully operational in early 2021, is specially
designed and staffed to treat individuals with wide-ranging disabilities.
“The teledentistry program will help our patients and their
families navigate access to appropriate oral care,” says Dr. Robbins. “The
difficulty for many is obtaining care advice and pre-visit consultation. We see
utilizing teledentistry to provide counseling on oral health maintenance,
ameliorate nonurgent dental problems, and triage true emergencies.”
The teledentistry program’s primary application since its launch
is as a pre-visit platform to facilitate gathering essential medical and
behavioral information ahead of a patient’s first in-person visit. This way,
the patient’s first appointment can focus on beginning to evaluate necessary services.
The Center’s patient navigator collects pre-visit demographic information to
help patients make appointments and ensure that any patient’s identified
special needs can be accommodated. A nurse practitioner on staff, along with dental
students, conducts a pre-visit teledentistry call to collect necessary medical
information, including identifying the need to obtain information from other
health care professionals.
The goal is to establish a baseline of teledentistry services over
the next three years with metrics captured to evaluate patient satisfaction and
value. “We want to provide an enhanced patient experience both pre- and
post-appointment with follow-up calls and instructions as needed,” says Dr.
Robbins. “Utilizing teledentistry can add this extra level of support for
patients, their families, and caregivers.”
Another part of this patient/caregiver support are plans to
develop educational tools that patients, their families, caregivers and other
health care professionals can easily access through the Penn Dental Medicine
website. A new series of orientation videos supported by a $20,000 grant from
the Eagles Autism Foundation will be a key resource in this area.
Targeted to both the patient and caregiver, the videos will
provide an introduction to the Care Suite facility and what is involved in a
visit to the dentist, helping patients prepare for their visit. The Care Suite
has two specialized treatment rooms specially designed with low lighting and
soundproofing to serve patients with light and noise sensitivities.
“We recognize that
going to the dentist can be anxiety producing for anyone,” says Dr. Robbins. “Add
to that the challenges with communication for an autistic person and the
anxiety can skyrocket. Using videos to acquaint patients to the dental
environment and what it means to go to the dentist ahead of a visit can be
The educational videos will be utilized in conjunction with
teledentistry visits before and after in-person appointments and will be
available to the general public as well.
of Beth Adams, Office of Communications, University of Pennsylvania School of
Published March 9, 2022