For people living in long-term care facilities who may not be able to travel, or have illnesses such as dementia, getting needed dental care has been made much more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has led to more calls for help to a D.C.-area nonprofit that brings the dentists to those in need.
A mobile dental operation offered by the Arlington, Virginia-based Fenwick Foundation brings a dental clinic to long-term care facilities and low-income housing communities in Northern Virginia. All the services they provide are free for patients.
Alex Gorny, executive director of the foundation, said because of the pandemic, many people in these locations have gone without dental care, leading to their oral health getting worse.
“People who would just need cleanings, because they can’t get the cleaning, now they need to have cavities restored,” Gorny said.
He said for those who just had cavities, they may now need root canals.
After the pandemic began, the mobile dental program only took place in one facility; that has now grown to 10 locations.
Gorny said before sending dentists out, these locations must be certified as COVID-19-free. Also, dentists do screenings on patients before beginning the dental work.
Gorny also said offering this service during the pandemic has come with many additional challenges for the dental teams.
“This now takes more time to clean, disinfect before seeing a patient, clean and disinfect after seeing a patient,” Gorny said.
Also, he said, special equipment is being used to sterilize the air, too.
So far, Gorny said 372 patients have been seen by dentists as part of the program. Adding in follow-up care, he said 2,000 visits have been done.
Gorny said making the clinics possible also requires the help of several other organizations.
In addition to the dental program, Gorny said the foundation, before the pandemic, offered older adults, veterans, disabled individuals, people in long-term care facilities and others opportunities to get out into their community and learn. Now, the nonprofit is doing that online, offering virtual events and classes on everything from dental care to gardening.
Some of the virtual destinations are based on local attractions, like virtual bird watching and even hay rides.
Gorny said technology has been a major boon as they try to make those they serve feel less lonely during these trying times.
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