Who Wants to Go to the Dentist? Not Me!

By Jolene Montgomery

The 2016 US Census recorded that nearly 1 in 8 Americans are living with some form of disability and it is estimated that nearly 75% of adults in the United States experience some amount of fear with regards to visiting a dentist. Advanced age, physical and mental disabilities and phobias can make going to a traditional dental office challenging.

It is because of these reasons; in 2014 Dr. Wade Banner started In Motion Dentists providing exclusively house-call dental services. That’s right…his TEAM of dentists and assistants come to your home because they know that not everyone can easily get to a regular dental office.

In Motion Dentist Van

Dr. Banner is proud of In Motion Dentists’ wrapped van
and will have it on display at the LA Abilities Expo, February 21-23.

Concierge Dental Service Goes Extra Mile for Disability Community

In Motion Dentists is a unique dental practice in that they provide comprehensive dental services in the comfort of one’s home or care facility. You heard that right…they set up a mini dental operatory right inside the person's home or care facility. Everything from exams and x-rays to fillings, crowns, tooth removal and denture services are provided to those who are unable to get to the dental office. On top of that, many people have called In Motion Dentists because they, or a loved one, have been turned away by other dentists due to the patient’s disability or lack of cooperation at the dental office. “It can be difficult to find a dentist that is trained and able to take the extra time that is often needed to provide dental care to one with behaviors secondary to Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome, Autism or Alzheimer/Dementia,” Banner says.

“Most of our patients are affected by some form of disability and it’s because of these disabilities that we’ve learned several adaptive techniques to help a patient through a dental appointment. One of these techniques we’ve adopted is called ‘Tell/Feel/Show/Do’ to put people at ease,” says Dr. Banner congenially. “First we TELL people what we’ll do. Then we have them FEEL the mirror, instrument, etc. and then we SHOW them what we are going to DO so there are no surprises. We will work 5 seconds and then stop, increase to 10 seconds, 20 seconds and stop etc. We also use gentle mouth props to help keep the mouth open without anxiety.”

Dental work at home

Dr. Banner and his TEAM also understand that loud sounds and bright lights can be a distraction. In these cases, he might have people listen to music through their headphones if sound is an issue for them. He might have one wear sunglasses if the lights make them anxious. “Our TEAM has good bedside manner to calm and comfort our patients. For many people this is the first time they have had dental work without sedation! In the past they’ve had to be put to sleep for their dental work—or have avoided it altogether.”

In Motion’s team is carefully chosen for their specific qualities. Dr. Neda Shafai did a rotation at Rancho Los Amigos for 2 years before Dr. Banner found her. “Her experience at Rancho made her a great fit for the practice and she has a great smile that never fades.”

Dr. Marc Bernardo has a Master’s in Public Health and “has the biggest heart and one of the most likable personality! I had my eye on him from the time he was in dental school.”

“One of the first things I look for is bedside manner. We want our patients to feel listened to and unique—like they are not just a patient but are treated with the utmost respect.”

Demand Increases for In-home Dentistry

Banner recalls when he did house calls solo and pulled in a dental assistant as needed. He happily reports, “Now I have two teams, two vans and two sets of equipment allowing us to treat more people that need our services.”

Banner attributes this growth to when he first started volunteering at a local Regional Center.

(Regarding Regional Centers; they are state funded non-profits unique to California. Their purpose is to help those with developmental disabilities obtain the resources and services they need in life. One of these services they assist with is arranging dental services for their clients.)

“Parents at the Regional Center I volunteered at during dental school told me their dilemmas getting children to see a dentist. Making house calls seemed like a natural progression from there. When we went into their homes, our patients experienced much less anxiety and fewer behaviors because they were in their own environment.”

“By doing house-calls, we had options for the patient. I could bring in my portable dental chair for them to sit in, or they could be treated in their bed or wheelchair. Our portable dental unit has the water, suction and handpieces. We also bring a couple carts with our materials and supplies and all we need is a standard household power outlet to begin treatment.”

Meeting the family at home

If You Qualify for Medi-Cal, You Also Qualify for Denti-Cal

Banner and his team also address the financial anxieties of their prospective patients:

Most people will find that the cost of their house-call dental services are similar to the cost of a traditional dental practice, even though they are coming to you. “Patients pay up-front for the services they receive and if the patient has a PPO dental plan, we create and send the claim to their insurance. The patient receives a check for the amount their insurance would normally reimburse,” states Banner.

Also, they do accept Medi-Cal/Denti-Cal for those that live in a certain geographical area. “Back in 2016, Californians passed Prop. 56, which increased tobacco taxes and allocated them to pay for specific medical and dental procedures. As long as someone qualifies for Medi-Cal, they also qualify for Denti-Cal, boosted by the tobacco tax funding.”

​Since the $2-a-pack tax hike kicked in, the state has collected nearly $2.5 billion in additional funds, according to the state Department of Tax and Fee Administration. 

The first year the supplement was available, the state budgeted $110.7 million extra for physicians and $42.5 million for dentists, according to the Department of Health Care Services. In 2019-2020, the state proposes $455 million and $216.6 million respectively.

Because of this tax, Banner is able to reduce the out-of-pocket cost to the patient, soothing some of the financial fears about obtaining dental care.

In Motion Dentists Reaches Out to Disability Community through Abilities Expo

Banner acknowledges that his biggest hurdle is informing the community that In Motion Dentists and house-call dental services even exist.

“Our business model is personal; there are no commercials and no billboards. We are growing by word of mouth, online outreach and with intercommunity events. We’re hoping that the Abilities Expo will help us to spread the word!  At minimum, people will learn about our services and keep us in their back pocket for when they need a house-call dentist.”

Banner will be unveiling his amazing Expo Show Special: “We’ve never had an offer like this one! It debuts at the Abilities Expo this weekend and lasts through March 31st.

“Normally, a comprehensive exam with a full set of X-Rays with travel starts at $300 and can go as high as $800 depending on where the person resides. However…”  Banner says excitedly, “Just for this show we are going to offer an Abilities Expo special for only $249! We cover all of LA and Orange Counties, as well as portions of Riverside (west) and San Bernardino (west) counties.”

$249 for an exam, x-rays and travel to all these counties in Southern California!  Banner says, “We think people are really going to like this offer and this will make it more affordable for them to be seen by our dentists.”

“It’s nuts,” Banner admits. “But I hope this will help people who have struggled finding a dentist to take care of them or who have difficulty getting to a traditional office, make the call to get their teeth taken care of.”

“With a conservative upbringing, my parents instilled good values and doing the right thing. It’s my goal to treat every patient as if they were my own family; and what better way than in the comfort of one’s own home!”

You can learn more about In Motion Dentists at InMotionDentists.com, call them at (626) 594-0374, or visit them at Booth #333 at the Expo.

Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!
Sign up for the Buzz stay in the know on disability news and info