Retail Dental Clinics: A Viable Model for the Underserved?

By Mary Kate Scott

This is archived content; for historical reference only.

Among Californians who do not receive regular dental care, one of the primary reasons is that oral health services come at too steep a price. Nearly 60% of those who were unable to get the dental care they needed in 2008 said they could not afford it, and another 17% cited a lack of insurance.

Much as retail health clinics now offer convenient care at an affordable cost, retail dental clinics — located in drug, grocery, or mass merchandising stores — could help to close the oral health gap. Under this model, the clinics would offer a limited set of clearly priced, high-quality services delivered by oral health professionals in a low-cost facility located inside a high-traffic retail outlet.

This feasibility report, based on consumer surveys, published reports, and interviews with dentists and other experts, examines factors that would support or inhibit the emergence of retail dental clinics in California and elsewhere. While the model seems promising in today’s economic climate, it remains unclear if retail dental clinics would substantially improve access to services and the oral health of the underserved, since an innovation of this kind could evolve in various directions.

The full report, along with an interactive financial model in the form of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, are available under Document Downloads.