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Virtual Dental Clinic to Help Underserved Children

PHOTO: A new tele-health pilot project launched in Los Angeles today brings dental care to underserved children. The Virtual Dental Home system will benefit low-income children enrolled in L.A. County’s Head Start Programs. Courtesy U.S. Defense Dept.

PHOTO: A new tele-health pilot project launched in Los Angeles today brings dental care to underserved children. The Virtual Dental Home system will benefit low-income children enrolled in L.A. County’s Head Start Programs. Courtesy U.S. Defense Dept.


November 7, 2013

Going to the dentist is getting easier for children in California, because the dentist is coming to them. A "Virtual Dental Home" system being launched in Los Angeles today is designed to benefit low-income children enrolled in L.A. County's Head Start programs. The system was created at the University of the Pacific, and is being demonstrated in communities from Eureka to San Diego.

Project Director Dr. Paul Glassman said it is designed for the state's most vulnerable.

"The goal of the system is to be able to improve the dental health of those people who have trouble getting access to the traditional dental care system. It turns out that's a lot of people in our society," Glassman said.

After a child is examined by a dental hygienist and assistant at one of L.A. County's Head Start and Early Head Start centers, their dental records are uploaded to a secure Internet site, where a dentist reviews them and recommends a treatment plan.

Glassman, a professor of Dental Practice at the University of the Pacific, said they have done extensive tests and found the system to be highly reliable.

"What we found was the dentists were making the same decisions based on just the computer records as they would make using the computer records, plus an in-person examination. In other words, the dentist did not need the in-person examination to make a decision."

The "Virtual Dental Home" program is supported by a $1 million grant from First 5 LA. Francisco Oaxaca, First 5 LA spokesman, said advances in technology have allowed for this innovative oral health care delivery system.

"All those things can be done remotely now, which is a really great advantage and really provides us with the tools to be able to take dental treatment right down into settings and communities where it hasn't been available before," Oaxaca said.

He added that they hope to turn around the results of a 2009 study they commissioned, which found more than 70 percent of L.A. County children under age 5 had untreated cavities.

More information is available at www.first5la.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA