Dental At Your Door Brings Much Needed Oral Health Care to Denver’s Homeless Population
Registered Dental Hygienist Jennifer Geiselhofer established the nonprofit just five years ago, and already provides preventive dental care to 30 metro-area homeless shelters.
Five years ago, Jennifer Geiselhofer decided to redirect her 20-some years of experience to change how dental care is delivered in Denver. She founded Dental At Your Door to bring “portable, preventative dental care” to individuals and organizations that need it most: homeless shelters, correctional facilities, substance abuse facilities, women's shelters, runaway youth shelters, and more extremely in-need facilities. In that short time, she and her small-but-mighty team have brought health care clinics regularly to more than 30 homeless shelters across the Denver area. She also is founder and executive director of a nonprofit called Deserving Dental Org., established to provide free preventive dental care to patients that don’t qualify for state assistance, but are still living below the poverty line. These two organizations work hand-in-hand to improve the oral health of all.
National research shows Americans support nontraditional care settings as part of the solution to improving oral care access and outcomes. With the Preventistry® approach, we are redefining prevention and care for everyone by looking beyond the dental chair and into the community for approaches that keep people healthy. As DentaQuest in-network providers, Geiselhofer and her team truly demonstrate Preventistry in action.
What is Dental At Your Door’s mission?
We set up clinics that provide high quality, on-site preventative dental care to Denver’s underserved and homeless populations. This includes serving patients of all ages inside shelters and facilities. We focus on patients with significant health issues, mobility challenges, financial limitations, and people experiencing homelessness.
Tell us more about the partnerships you’ve forged with dentists in the area.
Once a patient receives a dental cleaning from us, their follow-through for restorative dentistry is amazing. I have strong partnerships with wonderful dental and medical providers throughout Denver. Some of their specialties include general dentistry, oral surgery, ENTs and a Head and Neck Oncology team that treats cancer of the mouth, head and neck.
At the end of 2018, one dental office said more than 200 of my patients went to their office and had important follow up care — extractions, fillings, dentures. I often get hugs when those patients see me again. Some even cry — they may never have been to a dentist to get the care they needed and it is rewarding to know we were a part of that change.
How have you seen the work you’re doing impact patients beyond improved dental care?
We see many of our patients' confidence grow after a much needed dental cleaning, and follow up with our referring dental office. Now that they feel healthy and out of pain, they are applying for jobs and housing. Some even become promoted at jobs where they had been working in the back due to missing front teeth or gums with poor hygiene. Feeling great with healthy teeth and gums, they are up front serving customers.
It’s been five years. How many patients are you seeing now?
I see about 30 patients a week. On Thursday nights we do “double hygiene,” where we have two hygienists working together so we can help more patients. A couple times a month we provide preventive dental care at large nonprofit shelters for women and children. These facilities have so many residents that we provide quadruple hygiene — four hygienists working simultaneously to help more patients. I see about 1,400 people every year.
People living in the shelters transition in and out often; almost every patient every day is a new patient. We do have a successful recall system in place and have many patients that return to see us for 6-month cleanings and follow through with their scheduled deep cleanings inside the shelters. The homeless shelter circuit is small. We might see a patient at one location and the following week he or she is at another shelter. Our cloud-based dental software keeps every patient’s needs well organized.