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Pacific Center for Special Care Partners on Telehealth Pilot Project to Benefit Underserved Children in San Mateo County

The Virtual Dental Home system is demonstrated at Magnolia Head Start Center in East Palo Alto.

April  15, 2013

Nearly 800 low-income and special needs children in a San Mateo County Head Start program now have a new way to receive dental screenings, assessment and preventive services thanks to funding by First 5 San Mateo County. The funding supports a new partnership and a ground-breaking telehealth pilot project called the “Virtual Dental Home.”

The innovative oral health care delivery system was created by the Pacific Center for Special Care at University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. Under the Virtual Dental Home model, specially trained dental hygienists in advanced practice, dental hygienists in public health settings and dental assistants provide dental care to underserved populations in a community setting such as a school, community center, nursing home or group home. The hygienists and assistants virtually collaborate with a dentist using hand-held telehealth technology, such as hand-held X-ray devices, to provide critical dental services, assessment and care.

Virtual Dental Home now benefits children in San Mateo County thanks to a collaborative effort between First 5 San Mateo County, The Institute for Human and Social Development (which administers San Mateo County Head Start programs), Ravenswood Family Health Center and the Pacific Center for Special Care. This partnership provides an opportunity for children enrolled in Head Start to receive oral health screenings, risk assessment and preventive treatment without having to visit a traditional dental clinic or office unless additional treatment is required. Case management is provided to support families in accessing more care if needed.

With parental consent, children are examined by a dental hygienist and assistant at the numerous Head Start centers located throughout San Mateo County. The dental records for these children are uploaded to a secure, cloud-based Internet site where a dentist at Ravenswood Family Dentistry reviews them and recommends a treatment plan if further care is needed.

The Virtual Dental Home system is currently in use at six Head Start sites throughout San Mateo County, and will be expanded to 12 sites this year, including Early Head Start infant and toddler sites.

“Thanks to First 5 San Mateo County and partners like the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry, hundreds of children throughout the county will now have access to high-quality oral hygiene,” said Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, one of the county’s original First 5 Commissioners. “Studies have shown there is a relationship between dental care and self-esteem, school performance, and critical developmental health needs.”

“I am delighted that the Peninsula is the home of so many test sites of this important pilot project,” said Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. “By exploring innovative technology and public-private partnerships, this venture is making dental care more widely available to one of our community's most vulnerable populations – children – and is giving them a head start on a lifetime of healthy dental practices that can influence their overall health and their performance in school.”

According to Dr. Yogita Thakur, Dental Director of Ravenswood Family Health Clinic, over 50% of children entering kindergarten have experienced tooth decay and roughly 25% of children on Medi-Cal get preventive dental services. This preschool, Medicaid-eligible population is targeted through the Virtual Dental Home project in San Mateo County Head Start centers.

“This new delivery model provides a much-needed community-based ‘virtual dental home’ for our state’s most vulnerable people, who will access dental services in their own communities as well as remove some of the barriers to receiving care in a traditional dental office setting,” said Dr. Paul Glassman, project director and professor of dental practice at the University of the Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

About the Pacific Center for Special Care
The Pacific Center for Special Care is an organization within the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry committed to improving the oral health of underserved people on the local, state and federal level. The Center has created best-practice models of, and advocates for, improved access to dental care for anyone who faces challenges receiving oral health services through the traditional oral health care system. This includes groups and individuals who have difficulty maintaining good oral health or accessing oral health services because of medical, physical, social, economic and geographic conditions. The Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry is highly regarded for its humanistic model of education that respects the dignity of each individual and fosters limitless potential for growth; accelerated year-round pre-doctoral program; and innovation in dental curriculum, including comprehensive patient care and competency-based education.

About The Institute for Human and Social Development (IHSD)
Since 1983, the Institute for Human and Social Development, Inc. (IHSD), a nonprofit organization, has been providing comprehensive child development, family support and health services to low-income families through Head Start, Early Head Start and State Preschool programs in San Mateo County. With a budget of $9 million, IHSD serves 652 Head Start children ages three to five years old and 147 Early Head Start children ages birth to three years old (including pregnant mothers) through our child care centers, family child care homes, and home-visiting programs. IHSD’s services establish a foundation for children and families to achieve their fullest potential and effectively contribute to a changing society.

About Ravenswood Family Health Center
Ravenswood Family Health Center, based in East Palo Alto, offers comprehensive coordinated health care including primary medical care and prevention services, health education and wellness, behavioral health, and full-service dental care to 11,000 patients annually. It serves the multi-ethnic low-income and uninsured residents of southeast San Mateo County. 97% of its patients live at or below 200% of the federal poverty line.

About First 5 San Mateo County
Based on research demonstrating that the capacity of a child’s brain grows more during the first five years of life, California voters passed Proposition 10 in 1998, which added a 50 cents tax on tobacco products to fund programs for expectant parents and children prenatally to age 5. First 5 San Mateo County invests Prop. 10 revenues in local programs and services supporting early learning, child health and development, family support and engagement and communication and systems change. In FY 2011-2012, First 5 San Mateo County managed over $7.5 million dollars into our community to the benefit of 15,166 children, parents and service providers – and ultimately each and every one of us.

Category Type: Dental Issues and Research, General

Contact:  Office of Public Relations, 415.929.6434, pr@pacific.edu