High-Tech Dental X-ray Bus Improves Access to Quality Dental Care for North Carolinians

  • Dental X-ray bus has increased the number of NCMOM patients receiving diagnostic X-rays from 22% to 72%
  • In 2010, 28% more North Carolinians – 1,500 additional patients  – were seen as a result of the new technology
  • $3.1 million in donated dental care was delivered through NCMOM clinics in 2010, up from $2.1 million the previous year
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Availability of state-of-the-art X-ray equipment helped make it possible for 28% more North Carolinians to receive what amounted to an additional $1 million in quality dental care during free clinics held across the state last year. The purchase of the dental X-ray bus was supported by a grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation and delivers diagnostic technology to North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NCMOM) dental clinics across the state.
 
In 2009, the NCMOM clinics treated 5,267 patients and with the help of the dental X-ray bus, that number increased to 6,753 in 2010. Those patients received $3.1 million in donated care, up from $2.1 million in 2009. The bus will be on hand for NCMOM clinics in Raleigh and Charlotte this month. NCMOM clinics provide North Carolinians access to quality dental care at weekend clinics across the state.
 
“I never thought I would have the responsibility or the honor to see this many patients,” said Dr. Bill Blaylock, Director of North Carolina Missions of Mercy. “The improved standard of care provided by the X-ray bus has been a motivating factor for a lot of dentists and that, along with the efficiency of the X-ray process, has helped us see more people.”
 
Blaylock says the dental X-ray bus – rolled out in 2010 with the support of a three-year grant from the BCBSNC Foundation – is boosting the quality of care that volunteer dental professionals are able to deliver at the clinics. The number of patients receiving diagnostic X-rays skyrocketed from 22 percent to 72 percent as a result of the new capacity. Prior to the purchase of the vehicle, dentists relied on an X-ray machine that literally was held together with duct tape.
 
The NCMOM program is sponsored by the N. C. Dental Health Fund and is staffed by volunteer dental professionals and community volunteers at each clinic. The bus houses four digital X-ray machines and helps dentists provide more efficient and effective diagnoses at clinics across the state. Patients receive hard copies of their X-rays that also are stored as part of their electronic medical records.
 
Providing dental care to patients who need it also helps address the issue of rising health care costs.
 
“These clinics have an immediate impact on Emergency Room usage in the communities we visit,” Dr. Blaylock explained. “In one community we visit regularly, ER docs tell us that emergency room visits for dental-related issues drop significantly in the weeks after our free dental clinic.”  
 
Recruitment efforts continue for dentists and hygienists so clinic sites can increase capacity. With the ability to see more patients, organizers are moving toward larger venues such as the RBC Center in Raleigh, the Charlotte Convention Center and the Greensboro Coliseum.
 
During the remainder of this year, the NCMOM program and its X-ray bus will travel to NCMOM clinics across the state, making stops in Raleigh, Charlotte, Sylva, Kill Devil Hills, and Greensboro through the end of the year. For more details about each stop, please visit the North Carolina Missions of Mercy online at ncdental.org.
 
 
About the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation:
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is a separate, independent, nonprofit Foundation dedicated to improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. The Foundation's focus areas include: Health of Vulnerable Populations - improving health outcomes of populations served by safety-net organizations; Healthy Active Communities - increasing physical activity and encouraging healthy eating habits; and Community Impact through Nonprofit Excellence - increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations.  BCBSNC Foundation invests programs and services in response to grant requests and proactively creates initiatives or partners with organizations to address specific needs. It also coordinates several Signature Programs, among them, Be Active Kids® and Healthy Community Institute for Nonprofit Excellence. More information is available at bcbsncfoundation.org.  
 
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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA)® Registered Marks of the BCBSA.