Introduction/Planning Introduction


There is an ever-increasing need to provide oral health care to populations that have difficulty gaining access to the traditional dental care delivery system. These groups include a variety of people with special needs such as those who reside in residential facilities or are homebound, people who live in isolated areas or where there are no dental offices, or children who don't have regular access to preventive services.


Developments in mobile/portable dental system technologies have produced a variety of effective options for dental professionals to serve people outside a traditional fixed location dental office or clinic.

The focus of this manual is creating mobile/portable systems of care, using public health approaches, to serve populations in need.

Services using a mobile vehicle or portable equipment can be provided as a private practice or an extension to a private practice, or using various public health models. Mobile/portable dental systems can serve as dental "safety net" programs for people who lack the resources to acquire those services on their own. Safety net programs usually are administered by agencies such as community health centers, dental schools, hospitals, non-profit associations or health departments. Public health approaches lend themselves to providing services in settings such as schools, Head Start centers, senior centers or homeless shelters.

This online manual was developed to fill an information gap in response to frustration voiced by people trying to address dental access problems in areas where offices or clinics in fixed locations were not meeting the oral health needs or demand for care. Few resources exist to help people compare various mobile and portable dental systems with enough details for designing, purchasing and operating programs. Numerous articles and some books are available, but sometimes are difficult to access and do not include information on new technologies.

The content for the Mobile-Portable Dental Manual is derived from valuable personal experiences (successes and lessons learned) of many individuals and manufacturers across the U.S., published material, questions from people wanting to start programs, and feedback from reviewers.

The manual provides:

The manual is a companion manual to the online Safety Net Dental Clinic Manual that covers considerations for fixed dental clinic sites that are not private practices. Users are referred or linked to information in the Safety Net Manual that applies to basic principles of designing, staffing, operating and financing dental care systems no matter what type of delivery system is used, thus avoiding unnecessary duplication. In the same manner, portions of the Safety Net Dental Clinic Manual are linked to the Mobile-Portable Manual. Content in both manuals is updated on a quarterly basis.

Five chapters provide important questions, considerations, recommendations and evaluation strategies to help make decisions about programs using mobile vehicles, portable equipment, or a combination system. The chapters and links provide flexibility for the user to gain a general overview or delve into specific details. The manual is not a cookbook, but rather a discussion of important steps and decisions that need to occur. The manual does not endorse any particular equipment or manufacturer.

Whether you're a program coordinator in a local non-profit agency, a dentist in private practice, a dental hygienist working in a school clinic, director of an oral health program in a state or local government agency, a school nurse, nursing home administrator, or medical director of a hospital -- this manual can provide you with important information.

Enjoy your journey as you follow the road of mobile and portable dental care systems to each of the five chapter rest stops.