When most people think of dental appointments neat and tidy reception areas and sterile offices probably come to mind. Most wouldn’t think of the cozy and familiar comfort of their own home. But one New York City dentist is breaking the mold of traditional dentistry and bringing dental care to people’s homes—one visit at a time.
A recent report from the Frederick News-Post told the story of Dr. Alisa Kauffman and her unique—and inspiring—dental work.
Kauffman’s dental career began like many others with her practicing dentistry in a traditional dental practice. But when the father of one of her friends had a stroke that left him struggling to leave the house for appointments (like a trip to the dentist) she had a solution. She simply packed up her supplies and took a cab to his house to give him the care he needed. And since then Kauffman hasn’t returned to traditional dentistry.
Instead, she’s dedicated her time to making house calls to elderly patients who would otherwise be unable to receive proper dental care. She does everything from routine cleanings and filling cavities to making dentures and extracting teeth in the patients’ home, providing them relief pain or preventive care needed to keep their teeth in good condition.
Kauffman’s patients are mostly in Manhattan and range in age with the oldest being a spry 107-year-old with all her teeth intact, a feat she attributes to flossing before it was fashionable. She gets to know her patients well during her home visits, often hearing tales of important events in their lives (including one woman who survived the sinking of the Titanic!). They become her friends and she their comforting confidant.
Many of her patients have dementia, which provides its own unique challenge to treatment beyond struggling to travel to appointments. Kauffman says, “They are not comfortable sitting in a dental chair…and you can’t reason with a dementia patient in your office for 45 minutes.” That’s why house calls like the ones she provides are so essential to their getting proper care.
For Kauffman the work is a labor of love—and a way to meet needs that so often go unmet. She has a bubbly and infectious personality that puts even the most anxious patients at ease. Plus, she excels at breaking down the barriers between dentist and patient, diving headfirst into appointments with enthusiasm that leaves little room for awkwardness about extracting teeth in the patient’s favorite chair.
With the number of people over the age of 65 expected to double in the next 30 years, the need for dental treatment for the elderly is going to increase rapidly. And Kauffman is trying to do her part of help the future of elderly patient dental care by lecturing on geriatric dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania and forming a training program that dentists all around the country will be able to use when working with geriatric patients.
While we know everyone can’t just pick up their bags and start making house calls, stories like this are an awesome reminder of the impact dental professionals can have on the lives of their patients. So give yourself a pat on the back and keep asking how you can continue to give back to your community.