Good oral care for everyone
According to a 2021 CDC study, dental care remains a significant challenge for many, with 29% of Americans lacking dental insurance, a figure that rises to 62% for seniors.
Addressing these challenges is core to our mission. By offering dental care to all who need it regardless of the ability to pay, we help ease the way for families that have to make a difficult choice between essentials such as food and healthcare.
Education is key. Both in our ship’s early days and now, health educators engage patients with workshops and activities that promote oral health awareness. And now, that includes educating the rising number of migrants, who may have varying issues around the culture of healthcare in general and oral care specifically. One such example, says Floating Hospital dentist Rita Estephan, is advising new migrants, who often come from countries where it is unsafe to drink tap water, about drinking tap water, which in New York, is fluoridated. Another significant knowledge gap is how bacterial transmissions spread, which can lead to dental issues.
Dr. Estephan highlights how Floating Hospital integrated services can help a patient with other issues. “At times, poor oral hygiene may signal underlying psychological issues, prompting a referral to our behavioral health department,” she says. Also, staff are trained to look for signs of physical injury that may telegraph signs of abuse.
And, there are other times when the “more than healthcare” model results in a smile. Hart recalls a heartwarming patient story that reaffirms why we do what we do.
“A young patient, who had lost a tooth due to a sports injury, was about to miss her prom. Our team stepped in, providing a partial denture. That evening at prom, she confidently showcased her full smile.”
The Floating Hospital thanks the Hearst Foundations and the Oral Health Foundation of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, which have supported the new clinic with grants for equipment and supplies.