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Community-Based Dental Care: An Alternative Approach to Improve Access to Dental Providers

Course Number: 552

Choosing a Space to Deliver the Project

The team should carefully choose a location from which the project will be delivered. This site must be a place that is familiar to the population and provides a comfortable atmosphere for those that will be served. This is an important issue that can be discussed with by the Advisory Council. Members of the Council may suggest strategic locations that may increase access.

The physical parameters of a facility also need to be considered when choosing a location. Adequate space, lighting, ventilation-heating and cooling, utilities and access to transportation/parking is primary on the list of mandatory requirements. Table 2 provides a list of questions that should be determined when securing a location.

Table 2. Questions to ask for securing a location.

  • Does your organization have space available that can be utilized for up to ____ weeks by this program?
  • Does the space you identified have the ability to be locked?
  • Does the space you identified have at least 2 electrical outlets available for use?
  • Does the electrical supply to the space support the use of multiple electrical devices at one time?
  • Does the space you identified have access to a water source?
  • Are there heating and cooling outlets in the space?
  • What is the source of lighting? Is it adequate?
  • Is there storage available at the site? Is it locked? Is it heated and cooled?
  • What times could the storage area be accessed? Must we secure access to the storage through a person at your facility?
  • During what hours can the operatory be assembled? Can this be done a day prior to care?
  • Does your organization have wireless internet connection?
  • Is there someone at your organization that would be willing/able to work with the program as a contact person for location questions and concerns?
  • Is staff at the location supportive of the program and willing to tolerate the small interruptions in their day necessary to provide the care?
  • Does your organization have additional dental programs that provide care at your organization on a regular basis? If so, which program and whom do they treat?
  • Are there any times of year when the delivery of care on site would be not permissible? If so, when?

Adequate space for delivery of care and storage of equipment/supplies is often a challenge. For example, approximately 80-100 square feet would be the minimal space necessary for a portable operatory in a school. In a school setting, the library; a portion of the cafeteria; or minimally used classrooms are chosen for sites to set up a portable operatory. Keep in mind privacy must be maintained for the patient and provider. This may often require the use of room partitions. Request storage for supplies and equipment near the area which will be used for services. Set-up of an operatory becomes difficult when one must carry equipment and supplies up and down stairs for storage. This is not a problem if a project is operated only a few times, but for a sustained project, the movement of equipment and supplies from a remote storage area can hamper retention of dental personnel and potentially hinder project success.

Experts in the delivery of community-based oral health care in skilled nursing facilities recommend a minimum of 12x12 feet (144 square feet).32 Many long-term care facilities offer a beauty shop for residents and this may be an ideal location. The beauty shop usually has excellent lighting, seating space and sinks. Using a wheelchair lift in place of a portable dental chair may require more space for the operatory. Also, multiple care-givers may be needed to deliver care.32 This also will dictate greater space requirements.

A portable operatory is not always necessary. It may be that funders and the project directors would like to establish a permanent operatory in the target location. This is ideal. However, remember, the same issues apply. These issues include adequate square footage, ventilation, lighting, utilities, storage and privacy.