Oral health is indicative of overall health, and consistent dental care is an important element of health and well-being. Poor oral health is associated with conditions like endocarditis and respiratory diseases like pneumonia.1 In Arizona, 60.7% of the population reported visiting a dental clinic in 2022.2
According to the Arizona 2019-2022 Oral Health Action Plan, Arizonans fall below national averages in oral health measures, and tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children, despite being largely preventable.3 The Action Plan also highlights disparities in access to care, including among people with lower income and those residing in dentally underserved areas.
Brighter Way Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides dental services to people in Arizona with a particular focus on underserved populations including children, veterans, people experiencing homelessness and those with special needs.4 Last year, 9,036 patients received care across all of Brighter Way’s dental centers, with a total of 82,697 procedures. Dental services are provided from two brick-and-mortar dental centers and a mobile dental unit recently tokened the “Tooth Bus.”
UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona donated the Tooth Bus to Brighter Way in July 2018 to support UnitedHealthcare and Brighter Way’s common goal of improving access to oral health care and expanding outreach to people in the community who experience health and social disparities.5 The Tooth Bus provides a fully contained and highly efficient delivery-system, establishing community collaborations and improving care access by bringing care to community members. The Tooth Bus caters to the following populations:
- Students and families – Tooth Bus attends community health fairs serving children and families across Maricopa County. It also visits children in Title I schools, local Boys & Girls Clubs and the Children First Leadership Academy.
- Children who have special needs – Brighter Way Dental Centers have specialized professional resources to care for children with special needs.
- LGBTQ+ youth and young adults – Through a collaboration with one.n.ten, the Tooth Bus provides oral health services to young people who identify as LGBTQ+ and have limited access to oral health services.
- Veterans and individuals experiencing homelessness – The Tooth Bus visits the Key Campus, which offers resources for people experiencing homelessness, to assess oral health needs and help relieve pain and infection, and schedule patients for no-charge-treatment in the Diane & Bruce Halle Brighter Way Dental Center.
The Tooth Bus additionally collaborates with Advance Arizona to facilitate oral health education to empower children to improve their oral health over their lifetime. Each child receives a Smile Bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss.
UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives. Collaboration with Brighter Way promotes improved oral and overall health outcomes for Arizonians with limited access to dental services.
- Oral health: A window to your overall health - Mayo Clinic Opens in a new window
- Explore Dental Visit in Arizona | AHR (americashealthrankings.org) Opens in a new window
- Arizona 2019- 2022 Oral Health Action Plan Opens in a new window
- About (brighterwaydental.org) Opens in a new window
- Brighter Way United HealthCare Mobile Dental Center (brighterwaydental.org) Opens in a new window