Two minority-led dental providers to receive custom mobile dentist offices

Two minority-led dental providers to receive custom mobile dentist offices 10/20/2021

Detroit, Michigan – Two minority-led Michigan dental health providers have been selected to receive a custom mobile dental clinic through the Motor City Kares initiative – a $500,000 initiative aimed at uplifting minority businesses and bringing high-quality, mobile oral health care services to communities and residents in Southwest Detroit.

Hygiene on Wheels, Inc. and My Community Dental Centers will each receive a custom Ford Transit van converted into a mobile dental office later this year. The mobile units will be equipped with technology – including digital x-rays, intraoral cameras, tele-dentistry capabilities and more – that allow the businesses to provide preventative dental care, emergency procedures and dental hygiene education to insured, uninsured and underinsured patients alike.

Over the course of a two-year agreement, both businesses will be required to spend at least 50% of their mobile unit’s time in operation serving residents in Southwest Detroit's Corktown and Mexicantown neighborhoods. After successfully operating the mobile units for two years and building a stable mobile dental practice, the business and mobile clinic is theirs to keep.

Hygiene on Wheels

With over 30 years of clinical experience, registered dental hygienist Deanna Alexander understands difficulties associated with access to oral healthcare. In 2008, she began her community outreach program, Hygiene on Wheels, with the mission of providing oral hygiene education and dental care to underserved populations. The resources she is receiving through the Motor City Kares initiative will allow Alexander to serve even more people in need of care – including children and the elderly and senior populations.

“I was already providing service with a small portable unit, but this opportunity is allowing me to grow my business, establish even more of a presence in the community and, ultimately, serve and help even more people,” said Deanna Alexander, owner, Hygiene on Wheels. “Mobile dentistry is the future and this van is going to be the best thing ever for me.”

My Community Dental Centers

Established in 2006 and founded on the strength of community partnerships and a commitment to provide exceptional patient-centered care, My Community Dental Center (MCDC) is Michigan’s largest state-wide nonprofit dental service organization. With 34 locations across the state, MCDC provides comprehensive dental care for all – including patients enrolled in Medicaid, Healthy Kids Dental, Healthy Michigan Plan, private or commercial insurances and those who are uninsured.

“Working in Detroit, we have witnessed first-hand challenges and struggles related to poverty, unemployment, and health disparities. Reliable transportation is one of the most common barriers for patients. These challenges are heightened for persons with lower incomes or for those enrolled in Medicaid,” said Dr. Deborah Brown, CEO, My Community Dental Centers. “According to recent American Community Survey data, approximately 41% of the population in Corktown and Mexicantown are enrolled in Medicaid alone or a combination. We are so pleased to be a part of this partnership providing a mobile solution to improve access to dental care within these two communities - delivering one smile at a time!”

Improving public health and building community wealth

There are multiple barriers that limit or prevent people from receiving dental care in urban areas like Corktown and Mexicantown, including financial constraints, the inability to take time off work or school, access to reliable transportation or even long-held beliefs of distrust or fear of the dentist. Bringing care to individuals at their home or in their community can open doors for beneficial conversations and relationship-building with dental professionals in a more convenient and user-friendly way.

“This partnership is about improving public health and building community wealth,” said Margaret Trimer, vice president of strategic partnerships for Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. “We are not solely investing in dental care but lifting up minority entrepreneurs so they can provide critical access to care right here in Detroit.”

The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship reports that though minorities makeup 32% of the population, minority business ownership represents only 18% of the population. In the field of dentistry specifically, data from the Health Policy Institute indicates Black and Hispanic dentists are significantly underrepresented in the profession, accounting for less than 4% and 6%, respectively, of the dentist workforce in the United States.

“Access to oral health care is important to me, and I am glad to be part of an initiative where we have the opportunity to introduce a unique practice model to two entrepreneurs willing to think outside of the box to solve a challenging problem in our communities,” said Kwane Watson, founder and CEO of Kare Mobile. “I look forward to watching both entrepreneurs' businesses grow and flourish!”

Motor City Kares

A collaboration between Delta Dental of Michigan, Ford Motor Company Fund and Kare Mobile, with support from Lightship Foundation, the Motor City Kares initiative is designed to provide access to high-quality dental care in some of Detroit’s most underserved communities, while also helping minority-led dental providers build a mobility-focused oral health business.

“The Motor City Kares initiative allows us to combine Ford’s expertise in transportation with Ford Fund’s commitment to strengthening communities,” said Mary Culler, president, Ford Motor Company Fund. “We are proud to support this innovative mobility program that brings essential dental services directly to Detroit residents and will benefit these neighborhoods for years to come.” 

Delta Dental purchased the Ford Transits and Ford Fund provided the equipment required to upfit the vans into mobile dental offices. As experts in concierge, mobile dentistry, Kare Mobile is performing the vehicle upgrades, providing a two-year operating license for each business and offering management and administrative services and support.

Earlier this month, representatives from Hygiene on Wheels and MCDC attended a business incubator bootcamp that provided resources around legal, product, sales, marketing and investment readiness. The bootcamp, offered by Lightship Foundation – the first inclusion-focused entrepreneur advancement program in the Midwest – was designed to help prepare and train the dental providers on how to operate and sustain their new mobility-focused oral health care business.

My Community Dental Centers and Hygiene on Wheels plan to officially launch their mobile dental clinics in early 2022.