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Curry Health Network adds teledentistry services at Curry Family Medical in Port Orford

important preventative care is now closer and more convenient

PORT ORFORD, OR May 4, 2022 -- Curry Health Network (CHN) is excited to announce the addition of teledentistry services for Medicaid members to its Curry Family Medical clinic in Port Orford, a community that has been without dentistry for about two decades. The decision to partner with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), AllCare Health and Advantage Dental was made to make dental care accessible in the communities the healthcare system serves and provide a much-needed resource to help people protect their oral--and overall health.

Curry County was recently identified by the OHA as one of the most underserved regions in the state in terms of access to dental care--a variable that has led to poorer overall dental health than those living in other Oregon areas. With one third of adults not receiving recommended dental check-ups, and a provider-to-patient ratio of almost half the state average, there is a critical need for oral health services in our communities. Curry Health Network wants to help change that.

Any patient can receive, at no cost, an initial oral health consultation from an expanded practice dental hygienist (EPDH). These free visits include the assessment to determine oral health risk level, prevention/stabilization care such as fluoride treatment or sealants, oral hygiene instruction, nutritional counseling, tobacco counseling, toothbrush kits, and anticipatory guidance.

If patients of any age are covered by Advantage Medicaid and are in need of dental services, the patient is scheduled for a return teledentistry appointment. Teledentistry is an innovative care model to deliver preventative and early intervention dental care to people with limited access to oral health services or for those facing other obstacles, like dental providers who don't accept Medicaid. During the teledentistry visit, the EPDH takes X-rays and provides additional assessments that are submitted electronically to an off-site teledentist who then evaluates the information to offer treatment recommendations and any necessary plans for care. Teledentistry can save time and other expenses for patients who may need to travel significant distances for checks ups only to return later if additional care is needed. This efficient care approach saves patients time and resources as they only need to travel when care is needed.

Currently, if a patient is not covered by Medicaid but is in need of dental services, they are referred to local dentists and resources. Mary Ann Wren, Director of Integration and Community Programs for Advantage Dental says their team is working on being able to bill for non-Medicaid patients which would allow them to offer teledentistry visits to all patients - no matter the insurer or if the patient is uninsured - by the end of the year.

The decision to donate clinic space and support staff for initial oral health assessments and teledentistry services in Port Orford was easy for CHN. "We are fully invested in the health of our communities; any service that we can facilitate to improve health and quality of life of our neighbors is so important," said Ginny Williams, Curry Health Network chief executive officer. "Oral health has an enormous impact on overall health and wellness. Preventative dental services and oral health can help prevent infections, cardiac issues, and regular visits can offer early detection for some types of cancer. Dental care can save lives."

"We hope the accessibility of oral health consultation visits and teledentistry removes some of the barriers preventing people from getting the important care they need," Williams continued. "This is a great opportunity to schedule an easy, convenient oral health assessment where it's close and convenient, and to receive the same expert care they may otherwise travel for."

Oral health consultation appointments are currently available Thursdays at Curry Family Medical in Port Orford with plans to expand the service as needs grow. If you or someone in your family hasn't been to the dentist in a year, schedule this important visit. To learn more or schedule an appointment, call 541-332-3861.