A Champion for Teledentistry in Texas

Yashashri Urankar, DDS and chief dental officer at Neighborhood Well being Facilities of South Central Texas, is a 2021 DentaQuest Well being Fairness Hero

Yashashri Urankar, DDS, started the summer season in an uncommon manner for a dentist: testifying on the ground of the Texas Home of Representatives. She was there to proceed her work preventing for entry to oral well being care and championing teledentistry.

As chief dental officer on the Community Health Centers South Central Texas (CHCSCT), Urankar skilled firsthand the challenges of offering oral well being care therapies to sufferers throughout COVID-19. And it motivated her to advocate for change.

“When the pandemic hit, we have been informed that the dental division must be shut down indefinitely as a result of preliminary issues surrounding the aerosol-generating nature of many dental procedures and the power to take care of CDC-declared social distancing pointers,” Urankar says.

Throughout that point, telemedicine performed a serious position in persevering with docs’ visits and behavioral well being appointments for the greater than 20,000 sufferers on the CHCSCT. However whereas tens of millions of dental sufferers throughout the nation turned to teledentistry, digital journeys to the dentist’s workplace weren’t allowed below Texas state regulation.

“With out the teledentistry choice, there was no dental care obtainable to the neighborhood. Our sufferers must go to the ER in an effort to mitigate any ache.”

It’s reflective of a much bigger drawback. Annually in america, there are roughly two million hospital emergency department visits for nontraumatic dental issues, and most of those visits are for oral well being wants that might have been addressed at a dental workplace. The truth is, analysis signifies that almost 79% of these visits could be addressed in a dental office.

Decided to get her neighborhood the care it wanted, Urankar jumped into motion. She began filling gaps to entry in oral well being care by partnering with native emergency departments and pressing care facilities to make sure continuation of look after sufferers most in want. These partnerships proved to be crucial for sufferers, in addition to Urankar’s workers.

“Weak, underserved sufferers in our neighborhood have been capable of get the most-needed pressing care—extractions of actively contaminated tooth—and workers members retained jobs,” Urankar mentioned. “These partnerships allowed ER division workers to give attention to critically ailing COVID-19 sufferers.”

However Urankar didn’t cease there. She understood that teledentistry is a crucial software to assist shut the entry hole and tear down limitations that stop her sufferers from receiving care through the pandemic and past.

Throughout seven of CHCSCT’s eight federally certified well being facilities, greater than 60% of its affected person inhabitants is uninsured whereas the remaining is roofed by Medicaid. Almost all of its sufferers come from underserved communities, corresponding to Black, Brown and rural populations, who usually expertise structural limitations to conventional oral well being care as a result of elements together with lack of paid-time off, transportation or a adequate variety of suppliers inside an inexpensive distance. The truth is, three in four patients have experienced an obstacle in oral health care and 56 million Individuals reside in an space with a scarcity of dental professionals.

Teledentistry provides among the best options to mitigating this hole and making dental care potential in conditions the place it might in any other case be a battle—particularly throughout a pandemic.

The combination of teledentistry into common observe strategies isn’t solely an revolutionary strategy to offering care, but additionally a welcome one. Survey knowledge launched in June 2020 revealed that 86 p.c of sufferers would suggest teledentistry companies to others. And, respondents were confident in the potential of teledentistry to meet oral health care needs. Particularly, folks of shade and lower-income respondents, populations which might be disproportionately impacted by structural limitations to care, have been extra prone to report that teledentistry would enhance their entry to care.

That is what introduced Urankar to the Texas Statehouse to advocate for the authorization of teledentistry in Texas—and he or she made a distinction. In June, Texas Governor Greg Abbot signed HB 2056 into law, making teledentistry companies obtainable to sufferers all through Texas. Urankar’s advocacy work and testimony have been crucial within the effort to cross this laws.

Now, with the invoice signed into regulation, Urankar is happy in regards to the influence teledentistry may have on oral well being care in Texas.

It is a enormous step ahead in decreasing the disparities of oral well being care entry within the state.”

Yashashri Urankar is a 2021 DentaQuest Health Equity Hero. Together with her award, she is supporting Gajanan Maharaj America Devotees Parivar and Central Texas Meals Financial institution along with her Well being Fairness Hero donation.

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