Mobile dental care: a clever module of medical care in Singapoure

Business & Logistics

The smile mobile.

People in Singapore love to eat – so it’s all the more important to have good teeth. With a mobile dental clinic fitted inside an Atego, the dentists from Unity Denticare make sure their fellow Singaporeans’ teeth remain in good shape.

Singapore is a melting pot of different cultures. Accordingly, the cuisine of this city state is varied and colourful. In addition to the Chinese, Indian and Malay influences, Singapore also has its own unique style: the Peranakan cuisine which developed along the Strait of Malacca. Eating is something the 5.6 million Singaporeans value very highly. Good chefs command great respect. “Eating is a perennial subject for us Singaporeans,” says Vivien Yap, the Senior Manager of Operations at Unity Denticare. “Our aim is to give everyone a beautiful, healthy smile. Because it is only with healthy and well looked-after teeth that we can continue to enjoy good food for a long time.”

Unity Denticare was established in 1971 by the trade union NTUC under the name NTUC Denticare, with the aim of providing Singapore’s workers with affordable dental services. Today Unity Denticare is part of NTUC Health. Building on more than four decades’ experience, the group of companies offers an integrated range of high quality, affordable health and eldercare services to meet the growing needs of families. Amongst other things, NTUC Health also operates three nursing homes and 15 senior care centres of its own.

“Regular dental check-ups are one of the building blocks for maintaining healthy teeth,” explains Vivien Yap. “This is why Unity Denticare operates 19 dental clinics throughout the metropolitan area. Even though we have a presence just about anywhere, for elderly people in particular, making their way to a clinic can be strenuous. Especially if they have restricted mobility. And their number is growing all the time, because we Singaporeans are getting older and older.”

Life expectancy in the city-state is now around 82 years. According to government forecasts, by the year 2030, for every person over 65 years of age in Singapore there will only be two under 65 years of age. At the moment the ratio is still one to six.

Finding pragmatic solutions comes naturally to the inhabitants of Singapore. Take traffic lights, for example: anyone over 60 years of age as well as physically handicapped people can prolong the green phase for pedestrians. To do so calls for the use of a special card that senior citizens and disabled people can simply hold against a device mounted at the traffic lights. When the card is recognised, a signal sounds and a red indicator lights up. The next time the lights go green, pedestrians know that they are given more time to cross the road. Depending on the distance to be covered, this can be up to 13 seconds longer than usual.

“Because we are caring for more and more senior citizens, we came up with the idea of visiting people directly at their place of residence,” explains Vivien Yap. To this end, Unity Denticare arranged for a mobile dental clinic to be fitted into an Atego 1524. Its powerful 175-kW in-line six-cylinder diesel engine with 850 Nm of torque ensures speedy progress on Singapore’s numerous inner-city highways.

“Our aim is to give everyone a beautiful, healthy smile.”

– Vivien Yap, the Senior Manager of Operations at Unity Denticare

Mobile for healthy teeth. The equipment inside the dental clinic is absolutely state of the art.
Mobile for healthy teeth. The equipment inside the dental clinic is absolutely state of the art.

Equipped like a stationary clinic.

The vehicle is entirely dedicated to dental health. The fully air-conditioned box body contains a complete dental treatment unit with state-of-the-art equipment: drills, an ultrasound scaler, powder blaster – in fact, the Atego carries everything you need for any dental treatment on board. There is even an autoclave for disinfecting dental instruments and an X-ray unit. For safety reasons, the walls of the box body are equipped with radiation shielding. The comfortable treatment chair features a particularly compact design.

“All the other equipment is the same as in our other dental clinics,” says Vivien Yap. “In the mobile dental clinic, our team of experienced dentists and dental hygienists offers a comprehensive range of general, preventive, and restorative treatments.”

The only thing the Atego needs when it is deployed on site is a connection to the mains water supply. But there are suitable connection points virtually everywhere. It takes about three-quarters of an hour to get the treatment room inside the box body prepared for the first patient. Most of that time is spent carefully disinfecting the entire interior.

Not only do the dentists from Unity Denticare visit nursing homes across Singapore in their mobile dental clinic; they are also regularly deployed in residential areas and community centres. “Many of the nooks and crannies in Singapore are very densely built-up. Many roads and alleyways, especially in residential areas, are narrow and winding,” says Vivien Yap. “It would be almost impossible to get in there in a large truck. The Atego, by contrast, is compact and very reliable. It can get into even the most poorly accessible nooks of this city. With our mobile dental clinic, we save our clients a great deal of time and effort.”

Photos & video: Alexander Tempel