At 97 years old, Ray Kaliski still keeps track of the world from the comfort of his Marin County home. A lot of things are just easier there, including visits from his dentist.
Erica Haskett is part of Bay Area House Call Dentists, based in San Francisco. The group performs house calls within a 60 mile radius of the city. Their equipment includes everything from portable drilling stations to mobile x-rays.
"Really anything we can accomplish in someone's home; surgical extractions, regular extractions, denture repair," Haskett said.
The mobile clinic is the brain child of dentist David Blende. He says the majority of patients are elderly or have special needs and often postpone preventative care.
"By the time they usually discover something, it's a relative on visit or caregiver and they all of a sudden they see a loose tooth or something that frightens them and we get a call," Blende said.
He says the home visits can often head-off more serious situations later on.
But the convenience comes at a price. Home visits, including a check up with x-rays, start at $475. The cost of procedures such as cleanings and tooth extractions are additional and run about the same as in-office visits.
"It's costly to put a dentist and a dental assistant in a van and send them out for an hour, they're gone for half a day," Blende said.
Dallas Swann is Kaliski's caregiver. She says the convenience is still worth the added cost.
"I'll have to drop Ray off and come back very quickly and escort him to the office; this is wonderful," Swann said.
"I would rather stay here than be at the office," he said.
Blende says about half the cases can typically be treated at home, though more serious problems may still require an office visit. And all patients are assigned a care coordinator to monitor their progress.
The practice does not accept dental insurance, although patients may recoup some of the cost by submitting their own claims directly to their insurance company.
Written and produced by Tim Didion